“The first victory was a big step for me!”

A great performance including his first-ever individual victory on the highest level of Nordic Combined put Finland’s Ilkka Herola firmly among the hot athletes to watch. In TUESDAY TALK, the 23-year-old looks back on the summer and ahead to the next season. Also: a music update from one third of the Nordic Combined athletes band. 

Ilkka, you celebrated your first victory in the highest class of Nordic Combined in Villach. Even though it’s “only” a Summer Grand Prix, what did this victory mean to you?

Ilkka Herola:The first victory was of course a big step for me, even if it was summer competition. It shows the progress in training and that is important for my motivation and self confidence. 

In the overall standings, you’re currently in second position, only 10 points behind Austria’s Mario Seidl. You mentioned in Oberstdorf that you might not compete at the finals in Planica. Have you already made a final decision?

Herola:I will compete in Planica as well. It was quite an easy decision to make this little change to my original plan after those good results in first Summer Grand Prix period. 

How will the rest of your season preparation until the World Cup start in Ruka look like?

Herola: My preparation looks like same as in the last few years. In my calendar, you can find training camps in Finland and in mid-Europe. So nothing special! Short gaps between the camps will be spent hunting and playing mostly. (laughs) 

In Oberstdorf, we also had the FIS Youth Cup events and you were one of the athletes giving the prizes to the young athletes. What does it mean to you to see the next generation of Nordic Combined athletes up close on that weekend? Did you also compete in the Youth Cup back in the days?

Herola: It is great to see that Antti (Kuisma, the Finnish Youth coach) is still doing such good work with youngsters and that there will be guys following us. I hope their path will be a bit easier than it was for us, with no one showing the path.  

My career was going strongly towards ski jumping back in the Youth Cup age, so I only took part in the ski jumping Youth Cup when I was younger. That may sound funny but I really was much better in the hill and an extremely bad cross country skier! (laughs)

The standard question going towards the winter: what are your goals for the upcoming World Championship season?

Herola: My goals remain the same: an Individual and a team medal in Seefeld and a Top 5 position in the World Cup overall. In the bigger picture, my goal is to ease my mind and enjoy sports more and more every day. Of course biggest challenges sports-wise are to be found in jumping part. 

We know you as a passionate musician. We’ve seen some new songs on Spotify earlier in the year, tell us a bit more about your current music project! 

Herola: Spring time was quite productive for our group (“90 degrees”, consisting of Herola, coaches Antti Kuisma and Jarkko Saapinki, as well as Tuomas Mäkinen and Matti Iso-Mustajärvi) but the training camps have been slowing down new projects. But when we can just find a slot, for sure some new stuff will come out… quality not guaranteed! (laughs) 

We have music out on Spotify and Youtube but our lyrics are almost only in Finnish.