Laurien van der Graaff made her name stand out last season. A Holland- born, Switzerland-raised skier was considered to be one of the “potentionals” for a while now. But only in 2017/18 the Swiss ski sprinter had delivered what was expected of her: strong performance throughout the season capping in two brilliant victories at the World Cup stages.
Now van der Graaff, 30 is preparing for Seefeld-2019 ( where an individual ski sprint will be in her favorite freestyle – unlike the Olympics 2018) – and takes time to talk to the DailySkier about her experiences – and advises as to how to give one’s performance a boost in mid-career.
The last season had seen a breakthrough for many very young athletes: the success of Klaebo, Bolshunov, Nilsson, Nepryaeva makes some specialists and analysts to say that the skiing has changed and to win in sprints one has to be U23 or just slightly above. But there is one skier is definitely bucking that trend and have started to win at the age of 30 – you!
– So, what’s the secret or secrets of such a spurt this season? – on the whole, you being an exception, is the ski sprint a ‘youngster’s business” because, well, their bodies are younger?
– There isnt any secret for it , or maybe a lot 🙂 . Together with my coach we started 4-5 years ago with a technique training and are working every day. Starting with changing total fundamental things until small details and it worked out very well.
And other reason why I am probably still getting better is , as I was young I was not training a lot , I started with serious training in the age of 19-20 so there I had some potential .
Do you agree with a current trend – universalism, ability to run – and win – every distance in competitive skiing?
– Of course I would like to be part of this trend, would be great if I could win everything. But I know my body and my limits so I will never be a Top-5 skier over a 10k race.
But I think it’s getting more and more difficult to win everything , also if you see the amount of races during a season, it’s almost impossible to race everything on a high level.
Another current trend: increase of freestyle races on expense of those classic style ones. It used to be roughly 50-50, but in the 2018-19 FIS calendar there are 19 freestyle races and 12 classic ones or 30% imbalance. Natural development or unfair?
For the organizers its getting more and more demanding to prepare or to maintain good classics tracks where the isn’t a possibility to doublepole , so I think that’s a reason why we have more skating races . On the athletes side, many would like to have more classic races .
And on my side… Well, I’m better in skating , so I’m not unhappy with this .
Your coach Andreas Waldmeier is also your boyfriend. Is it a unique winning combination or something other ambitious skiers should try to emulate?
– I didn’t choose my boyfriend because he`s a good coach and I didn’t choose my coach because he`s a good boyfriend.
We just started to work together and realized that it worked out really well and he`s doing a fantastic job and that’s the most important thing for me.
Most if not all top level coaches in XCskiing are men. When will female coaches appear at that level?
– I dont think to much about the male/female situation , those who do the job the best should do it.
Money. Your example and that of Dario Cologna proves that relatively small skiing nations can compete and win against Norwegian, Russian or Swedish machines. Is it the amount of money spent on your success or how smart they are spent – what matters more at the end?
– Since im doing all my preparation on my own – beside the national team – and paying by myself, I know exactly where my money is going and the success I had this winter showed me that in some way I spent it in the right way the last years.
And the Swiss team has a small but good working service team – that’s for sure one important key point.
Commercial tournaments. Normally prizes won there cover souvenirs to take back home ( OK – call it “expensive souvenirs”). But suddenly there is a tournament in Yanan that pays its winner some 20000 Euros. Game changer? Future of skiing?
– With one race in China I won more prize money than I did the whole winter by winning two World Cup races and some top 10 places, but that’s how it is. The China trip was very interesting and funny but we will see how China is doing in the future with organizing ski races, they have a lot to improve but they are willing to learn, so its going to be interesting to follow in the future.
XCskiing is in many ways living in the shadows of its junior sibling, biathlon where TV ratings are huge and so are the money. Does XCskiing has a chance to catch up? And what needs to be done about it?
– Yes I think we can learn a lot from biathlon: how they are organizing their races and are bringing so many people to come to watch there races – especially in Middle-Europe .
Most skiers have taken weeks and weeks of vacations after a long season, while you started preparing for the new one already in late April, going to Norway for snow skiing. What are the benefits of starting so early? Was there enough of rest days for you?
I was in Sjusøen for several days , we wanted to benefit from the good snow conditions up there, without going to altitude or a skitunnel. We were working on some technique things I did not do well the last season. Somehow it felt both to start again with training but also to finish the work from the last season, so this was the perfect way to do it.
But after that I took again some days off so I had a vacation twice 🙂
If you were to pick three things that are the most important for success in XCskiing – what would they be?
– To be aware of what you can do and what you need to improve
– to push yourself but also to stop yourself in the right time