After a phenomenal last season, Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber will be the hunted man this winter. A new situation for the 22-year-old overall World Cup winner and reigning World Champion. In this week’s TUESDAY TALK, he reflects on past successes, looks to the future and gives a little insight in life one week before the World Cup start.
With the first Norwegian overall World Cup victory since Bjarte Engen Vik and the first World Championship gold since Norway won the team event in 2005, you ended quite some droughts this winter. How does it feel to step into the footsteps of these great athletes before you?
Jarl Riiber: It is of course a really big thing to be named alongside those big names who were there before us, like Bjarte Engen Vik but actually in everyday life, you are more inside your bubble and you don’t think about it too much. I hope it will sink it a little bit more when I am done with my career. (laughs).
With winning your first crystal globe and your first World Championship title this season, a lot of pressure is probably off your shoulders, as nobody can take these achievements away from you anymore. Do you think this will help you in the future in terms of calmness and self-confidence or are you just hungry for more?
Riiber: Of course I am hungry for more this season. It will be a season that is a little different. Last winter, we had World Championships, so the most teams had their focus on that. This year, there is only the yellow bib. It’s practically the only thing to fight for. So of course I am hungry. I’m hungry to perform better on the jumping hill and now that I am also a little older, I hope I can go even faster on the cross-country track as well.
I have the feeling that I have put the necessary work in and am well-prepared for the season start. It is of course the best thing about sport that you can always improve yourself further.
Pressure, pressure… of course I have to live up to the expectations after last year but that’s ok. I don’t really feel pressure from that.
What are you aiming for in the season 2019/20?
Riiber: I of course want to fight for the yellow bib as I did last year. I was number two in the Nordic Combined TRIPLE in Seefeld in 2018 and this is something that motivates me for this year. I have set it as a bit of a highlight for me and I hope I will be able to perform well there.
The Norwegian team has been changing in recent years with many of the older athletes like Håvard Klemetsen, Mikko Kokslien and now Magnus Moan retiring and young guns like the Oftebro brothers and others coming in. How would you describe the atmosphere in your team this year?
Riiber: It was a really cool year with the young guns. It’s true that there is a bit of a generation shift in progess right now with the Oftebro brothers, with Espen Bjørnstad on the A-team and to see that there are more athletes working their way up the ranks.
We had a great trip together to Park City for a training camp this summer and have gotten to know each other quite well during the season preparation. We are having a good time together and everyone is thriving on the team. We have a great winning culture on the team and for the next 10 years, we will have interesting gang of people together.
Every year, Ruka is a special challenge right at the beginning of the season with a big jumping hill, often difficult weather and this year, the Ruka Tour with three events in a row. Does it feel a little bit like jumping into the deep end to start a season like that?
Riiber: The season opening is special every year. It is usually about if you can find some snow before the season start, can you jump on snow already? You are still working on fine-tuning your equipment. It’s such an interesting period: You are finding out about the shape of your competitors and get some of the answers from your own body: where do you stand… you have a lot more of the answers when you are done with Ruka.
It is also a bit of a nerve-wrecking start with regards to the wind and weather but it is a very nice venue with a great jumping hill and a demanding cross-country track. Also to have a weekend with three events with different cross-country distances right off the bat is really cool, as you can see where you stand. It’s really cool.
How will you spend the last week until the season start now?
Riiber: To sum it up briefly: We have just been to Falun (SWE) for a Norges Cup and the jumping part of the national championships. Of course the focus is on the last trainings and the preparations for the World Cup but we have been to Falun and when we came back, we had a little kick-off event with our sponsors.
After that we will go to Beitostølen now for two more competitions and then it’s already time to travel to Ruka.