“It’s an honour host the best athletes in Otepää!”

Looking back on the first part of the Summer Grand Prix 2017, Estonian team leader Kristjan Ilves can be nothing but pleased. Always finishing in the Top 15 and three times even in the Top 10 put his name among the best Nordic Combined athletes in the world. TUESDAY TALK spoke with the 21-year-old… about his success, his “family team” and the home World Cup in Otepää.

Kristjan, congrats to an amazing performance this summer! What are you doing right at the moment? 

Kristjan Ilves: Definitely, the first part of Summer Grand Prix was very successful and if I am honest it was a quite surprise for me as well. I think it's a bit difficult to say what I'm doing right at the moment... but I suppose all the hard work that I have done all these years is finally paying off. When you see the improvements, it gives so much extra motivation and self-confidence for the future

Will we also see you at the Summer Grand Prix Finals in Planica? The Summer Grand Prix rules say that an athlete can only win the the overall standings if he takes part in all events. You’re currently holding the seventh place but if some of the top athletes decide not start in Slovenia, you could fight for a Top 3 result in the end.

Ilves: Yes, I'm coming to Planica. It was in our plans already before the first part of Summer Grand Prix. I think all is possible if I am in a good shape but it's still the summer. So I take it more as a good preparation for the winter season. Anyway I'll try to do my best and also enjoy it as much as possible.

The upcoming winter will have a World Cup in your home country of Estonia for the first time. How excited are you and what are your expectations for this weekend?

Ilves: For sure it's a honour for us to host the best Nordic Combined athletes in Otepää. I have been waiting for it for a very long time and of course want to be in top shape there to cheer my home crowd with some good results.  

With your brother joining the team and your father taking up the coach position, Nordic Combined has become a little bit of “family business” for you. Would you say this system is helping you to bring out your best performances?

Ilves: I think for me it's the best possible way to do that sport. Actually my father has trained me since I was a kid and we always had a very good connection and trust between us. Now, as he became a national coach, he can be with me the whole season. It has given me so much positive energy and I feel much more confident in the competitions. 

Also I'm very grateful that I have a such a cool training partner as my brother. We always encourage and motivate each other and it's just so cool that we have same goals in our lives. I think together it will be easier to reach them. I have to admit that it's easier to get into a fight with your family members compared to others but on the positive side, all the problems are solved much quicker.

Generally, Estonia is a small country and also the Nordic Combined team is not a big one. Is it sometimes problematic to have to shoulder the burden of team leader without being able to compare to many other strong Nordic Combined athletes in training?

Ilves: Of course it is better to have a many high level athletes in the team, in this situation you have to fight every day for your position and I think it helps to improve much faster. For me it's not a big issue because I am used to fight with myself and I'll be never totally satisfied until I'm not at my best. 

If we are informed correctly, you received a special scholarship to help with the preparations for the Olympics. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Ilves: That's correct. The scholarship is for the young athletes to provide the best possible preparation for the Olympics. It also includes a several schoolings of how to communicate with the media and how to create a brand of yourself, etc. Basically the scholarships idea is also to give a know-how for the young athletes to help them to reach the top.