With the first weekend of the 2018/19 winter in the books, the “Athlete of the Week” series returns to FIS Nordic Combined. After an exciting individual and unusual team event, there are a number of athletes who would deserve the honour, last but not least maiden World Cup winner Mario Seidl (AUT).
But this week we’d like to shine a light on an athlete from a smaller nation who made a big step forward last weekend: Czech Republic’s Tomas Portyk. While a fourth place in the individual and the fifth place with the team might not seem to be a top shelf performance to some, it was the way the Czech carried himself in the competitions and how the 22-year-old grew into the role of team leader for his three younger teammates in the absence of Czech veteran Miroslav Dvorak that gave the decisive impulse for this choice.
One of the quieter and soft-spoken athletes in person but very expressive on social media, Tomas Portyk has been a fixture on the World Cup for a while, despite his still young age. The first-ever Nordic Combined winner of the Youth Olympic Games 2012 in Innsbruck, Portyk basically started his career with a title to his name. After this, the strong jumper made a name for himself on the jumping hill first and it was in Trondheim in 2014 that he won his first jumping part on the World Cup level. Portyk followed up with a Junior World Champion 2016 in Rasnov (ROU).
While his jumping returned to a promising level in Ruka, as two competition jumps of 133.5 and 125.5 metres can attest to, it was the way Portyk moved on the cross-country track that led him close to the podium this weekend and brought his team to the fourth place after Portyk’s portion of the race in the Team Event.
There were few moments in the individual race that were more impressive than Portyk almost jumping up the final climb into the stadium to capture the fourth position, beating names like Manuel Faißt (GER), Wilhelm Denifl (AUT) and Magnus Moan (NOR) in the process, who all have podium positions to their names already.
Portyk’s inspired performance had his fellow Junior World Championship decorated teammates fighting tooth and nail to stay with athletes from the big Nordic Combined nations and secure an important team result for their nation.
After a weekend like this, we certainly cannot wait to see what he will do next. One thing is for sure: there might be more to come from Tomas Portyk.