19-year-old Jiawen Zhao and his half a year older teammate Zihe Zhao started Nordic Combined only in 2016 but have been regulars on the Continental Cup circuit since 2018 and had their first big Nordic Combined moments at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld in 2019. With Nordic Combined being a fairly new discipline in China, we wanted to get to know these two trailblazers and their rapid development a bit better!
How did you start with skiing / Nordic Combined?
Zhao Zihe: I started as a Cross-Country skier in 2012. In 2016, my coach became the national Nordic Combined coach, and so he persuaded me to try Nordic Combined in 2016.
Zhao Jiawen: I also started with cross-country skiing in 2015 and I had the same coach as Zihe, so also for me, I started with Nordic Combined in 2016.
Why did you pick Nordic Combined as your sport, what fascinates you most about it?
Zhao Zihe: Nordic Combined is very a new discipline for us in China, so that was fascinating. I find I really like ski jumping, it is such an exciting sport to do. So I was quite happy to follow my coach’s footsteps to the Nordic Combined team.
Zhao Jiawen: I agree, I really like the feeling to fly. To move in the air, to feel the different currents, it’s pure excitement. Those moments in the sky are the most precious to me.
What do you have to work harder on, the ski jumping or the cross-country skiing?
Zhao Jiawen: I need to work both of them, I think. (laughs)
Zhao Zihe: My most problematic side is Ski Jumping. I am especially trying to improve my takeoff phase.
Do you have a sports idol/role model (inside or outside of Nordic Combined)?
Zhao Jiawen: It has nothing to do with Nordic Combined but I am a huge fan of Irish Mixed Martial Arts fighter Conor McGregor.
Zhao Zihe: For me, it is Jarl Magnus Riiber. He’s the King of Nordic Combined right now.
What was your greatest/best/most exciting moment in Nordic Combined so far?
Zhao Jiawen: We did take part in some of the bigger Nordic Combined events like Continental Cup or the World Championships in Seefeld but the best feeling for me in Nordic Combined was actually during a small test event we held in our team last summer.
Zhao Zihe: I showed my best performance so far in the 14th national competition.
What are your goals for the next season?
Zhao Jiawen: I am actually working most on the mental side of the sport. I need to calm myself down more during the events. I have picked up a lot of bad habits and I am focused most on changing some of these for next winter.
Zhao Zihe: My biggest goal is to get the qualification for the World Cup.