It was one of the biggest Nordic Combined news of this spring: Finnish legend Hannu Manninen is extending his comeback to the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Korea. In TUESDAY TALK, the 38-year-old speaks about his training, combining his job as a pilot with his Olympic aspirations and his opinion about the possible Mass Start Revival in Nordic Combined.
When you made your comeback last season, many thought this would be only for the home World Championships in Lahti. What was the main motivation to continue for one more season?
Hannu Manninen: We had a very good team last season. The young guys in the team are very talented and lot of improvement have been made during last few years. We were quite close to the medal in team event at the Lahti World Championships. I am sure the Finnish team will be even stronger next season. The Olympic games could be a unique change for me to fight for a medal once more. That is why I decided to continue one more year.
How will you balance your job as a pilot with your Nordic Combined training for this year? Are you taking a break from the job?
Manninen: The combination is the same as during the last season. First comes my family, second is a job as a pilot and training and competing is a third part. I have been working normally during the summer, we have planned the training according to my work schedule with the head coach Petter Kukkonen. If I manage to get in to the Finnish team in the Olympics I have to have a longer break from flying.
With Jason Lamy Chappuis, another big name is making a comeback this winter, also during his professional career as a pilot. Have you two ever exchanged experiences, given the fact that you seem to have quite similar challenges to face?
Manninen: We haven't had any conversation about it but it would be very interesting to hear how he is going to manage to combine work and training.
How did you spring and summer look like so far? And will we be able to see you compete in the Summer Grand Prix this year?
Manninen: The spring was quite difficult for me because I was sick quite a lot, almost the whole month of May. But during June and July, my training has gone very well. I have been training with Finnish team in some training camps. Actually now, while am writing this we are having a training camp in Oberhof. The Summer Grand Prix is not going to happen this summer for me. Unfortunately, I will not be there.
As one of the very experienced athletes, you are one of the few who have extensive competition experience with the Mass Start format. The Nordic Combined Committee decided to bring the format back and test a simpler form with 10 km and 1 jump with normal judging & wind & gate in the Continental Cup in the upcoming winter. What is your opinion on this decision?
Manninen: The Mass Start format is quite interesting. I have good memories of many mass start competitions from previous years. The excitement lasts during the whole competition until the last jump. Of course good jumpers who are not the strongest skiers would have a bit of an advance from the cross country part. It is interesting also for the audience because you know the situation all the time during the competition.
You won a start in an Iron Man competition in the Nordic Combined Awards at the end of last winter. Have you already decided if and when and where this will happen?
Manninen: I have been trying to plan the Ironman competition this summer but it seems that I have no time to go anywhere in Europe to compete. I hope I can get a change to do it next summer. This summer I do only Nordic Combined!