When Nordic Combined veteran Håvard Klemetsen announced his career end just two weeks ago, many fans were surprised. In his last TUESDAY TALK as an active athlete, Klemetsen explains his timing, gives glimpses into his future and - of course - has some last word to address to the Nordic Combined fans and family.
Why did you make the decision to retire now, before an Olympic season, which is quite an unconventional point in time to retire?
Håvard Klemetsen: For somebody who wants to get to the world elite of such a demanding sport as Nordic Combined, a number of factors have to be in place. For example you have to be ready to do the job 100%, have to have a burning wish to take the next step, take the consequences of the higher goals, always make the sport the first priority and so on.
I began to feel that it was time to prioritise a little bit differently: to focus on my family, new challenges and last but not least to give my place to talents coming from behind. We are going into an exciting Olympic season, and yes, some will feel that maybe the timing of my retirement is a little strange. But this was about being honest to oneself and sometimes, you have to make tough decisions that also hurt a bit. Nevertheless, I am sure that this is the right time for me to go new ways - even if I am definitely going to miss the life as a top athlete for many years to come.
Most important of all, what is your professional plan now after your retirement? Do you plan on staying inside the sport or are you going to do something completely different?
Klemetsen: I have a lot of passion for Nordic Combined and sports in general and so I hope I can use my experience and expertise for something positive in sports in the future. I have a coach education and in addition, I spent 21 years on various teams of the Norwegian Ski Federation. I have experienced almost everything and hope and believe this will be useful no matter what I will do in the future.
At the same time, there are many other exciting things, too. It may take some further education and lead me into another environment eventually. All I know for sure is that I would like to work with people and in an environment where people are motivated and want to achieve something big.
I will now spend some time to think about this and talk to the skilled people I have around me. I’d like to find something I burn for. When I find this - I am sure I will have fun, and when I have fun I am sure I will do a good job!
Now that you don’t have to get started with the summer training, how are you going to spend the next couple of weeks and months?
Klemetsen: I will continue to train a bit as being an athlete is a lifestyle - especially when you have done this all your life. Up north, where I live, we still have snow in the mountains, so I will do some mountain tours in the amazing landscape that surrounds Tromsø. In addition, I will visit my sponsors and partners, who have given me the chance to be a professional athlete all these years. They deserve a big thank you.
I am also looking forward to being able to spend more time with family and friends, who have had a lower priority when the training started again each year. I will also start the process to find out what I want to do next, at least in the short term. I can’t very well just lie on the couch and scratch my head for the next year. But when one door closes quietly, a new one opens. I am looking forward to new challenges and new adventures.
Looking back on your active career, what was/were the best moment(s) you experienced?
Klemetsen: Well, of course I have to mention the World Championships in Oberstdorf in 2005 and the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. Another great moment was doing well at the World Championships in Falun and also winning the jumping at home ground in the World Campionships in Oslo was an amazing experience! I have actually always been something of a team player and had my best performances in the team events, which I regard as a strength. Experiencing such moments with teammates and good friends, people you train really hard together with every day of the year is just magic!
Actually I think the whole journey with all the ups and downs I have experienced, have turned me into a better athlete and a better person. I have experienced a lot as a Nordic Combined athlete, have met many amazing athletes and coaches and was able to fulfil most of my dreams as an athlete. I was always very concerned with living in the now and enjoy the life as a high performance athlete - and this made me lie down and also wake up with a smile on my face (laughs).
In your long career, you’ve seen the sport change and superstars come and go. If you had to give a prognosis, where is Nordic Combined going now? Where do you see the sport in ten years?
Klemetsen: First of all, I would like to thank all my teammates and athletes from all nations and the support staff - I have immense respect for all of you who make this sport so fascinating and exciting. In my mind, it's one of the biggest challenges you can take as an athlete to compete in Nordic Cobined. Just taking the decision to go "all in" and to try to be among the best in such a demanding sport says a lot about the athletes and people who make up the combined family!
I really hope Nordic Combined will manage to drive the development. We have to continue to create our profile and developing the discipline, so it is attractive for both the media and our supporters into the future.
I feel that here we really need to dare to create our own identity and not just look at the “specialists” in Ski Jumping and Cross-Country Skiing . We need to become more attractive to organizers, develop more concepts and forms of competition that create interest and buzz. We have every opportunity with the starting point we have today: talented athletes, exciting profiles that give something of themselves, and hopefully, FIS does also see that Nordic Combined has great potential that can be further developed to become an even better product and attractive sport - but if we sleep at the critical times the development and interest can go into a wrong direction! Evolution does not stop and it's important to hang on to it!
In 10 years, I really hope Nordic Combined will have a high status with a very exciting program and with many profiles who creates great commitment among fans and the media - but then we rely on cultivating our own identity and developing the competition concept further!
Any last words for the Nordic Combined fans out there?
Klemetsen: Thank you very much for making my career so special for me. I have experienced and fulfilled my dreams as an athlete in the “ultimate winter sport” and I can wholeheartedly recommend Nordic Combined to all athletes who consider beginning with this amazing discipline. Many thanks to all athletes, all support staff, organisers, supporters and FIS - all of which are an important part of the Nordic Combined family. Keep up the good work, and be proud!