Honestly, we do not think Gus Schumacher needs long introductions. A 19 year old from Anchorage, Alaska is a true leader of the extremely talented crop of US Juniors that collectively holds the best promise of breaking that Norwegian-Russian duopoly in male skiing – in a few years.
We talked to the double gold medalist of the recent FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships with one big question in mind: when does he think he will start taking on Klaebo and Bolshunov & what’s needed to make it happen?
You are the first American to win a gold medal in an individual race at the World Juniors. What does it say about the relative strength of the youth ski system the US?
– I think this first individual gold by itself doesn’t really show how strong the U.S. youth system is right now, but is certainly a piece of it. I think the bigger indicators, if you’re just looking at world juniors, are our relay results both men and women, and the less tangible feeling of confidence and hunger for fast skiing that we’re bringing to these events in such higher quantity than we used to.
Five years ago the United States didn’t even have a medal at the Juniors. Like never – ever. Then you and your teammates arrive to the scene – and start crushing it. What gives? What changed, you reckon?
– The big change there is an effect of great skiing from Americans like Kikkan ( Randall) and Jessie ( Diggins), and our specific medals from our group of 1999-2001 boys being super competitive, but also close and uplifting from a young age. I’ve been racing Luke Jager
since I was 9 years old, and I think that has helped us both immensely. And that will come in waves I think in the future but hopefully will just grow.
Helene Fossesholm got homecoming parade in her name yesterday. Have you? Would you like to have one?
– That’s sick for Helene! She deserves it big time. I can’t speak for a parade but my community at home in Alaska is incredibly supportive and had some events last year celebrating the relay and I can imagine there will be some more this spring too. I’d love to have one obviously! Part of the challenge is I still won’t be home for another 3 weeks.
It’s fairly easy to see what motivates a young guy in, say, Norway or Russia to pursue a pro-skier career and to spend 5000+ hours/ year chasing that goal. Please explain what motives a young American to do the same/ similar.
– I don’t really see huge differences between motivation for a Norwegian or American skier. Yea they tend to get paid more and have more support but I don’t think that’s why most of these top level skiers do it. It’s a lot of work to do if you don’t enjoy every minute, and I think for many of us, the motivation just comes from wanting to be better and have success in what we like to do, even if we might not be getting rich from it.
Making an assumption that you want to continue building on your success, what do you reckon you need to take on Klaebo and Bolshunov, materially speaking? To paraphrase that: how does one compete against skiers who have top resources & dozens of people working for them?
– I don’t think I need that much more materially to compete with the best guys right now. Maybe that’s naive of me, but I think what makes Klæbo and Bolshunov great centers much more around the grind and specifics of their training, and not pouring money into stuff like therapists that will help but only so much.
The World Cup is primarily staged in Europe which means that if you want to go big , you pretty much got to move to Europe for at least 6 months/ year . Are you ready, willing and able to do so?
– I’m totally ready to be on the World Cup half the year, especially with some of my best friends looking like they’ll be there when I will. Would be nice to find a place that felt like home that I could go to in Europe, but for the nearer future it’ll have to be just a big brocation.
In an ideal world, what would you do to grow a popularity of Nordic skiing in the US to let’s say ” commercially viable levels” as seen in Norway?
– In an ideal world, I think making US skiing more commercially viable means connecting more people with the sport. Easier said than done but action in smaller communities I think is really powerful. The difference between having groomed trails 10 min away vs 1 hour away for example.
How much money does a world class skier need to make to feel comfortable with her/ his choice of occupation?
– I think people feel comfortable skiing financially if they at least break even. I know there are lots of different motivators so I can’t say what makes other people comfortable, but for me I want to at least break even, but beyond that I care a lot more about skiing well and making skiing seem like something lots of people want to do. Skiing better generally does mean more money though.
Your Instagram is almost 100% about skiing. Anything private you are willing to share with out readers e.g. who do you date, what do you drive, what computer games you play & how well etc.?
– My family fishes commercially for salmon in the summer (I help out a few weeks of it). I do some motocross riding on recovery days, its not that easy for recovery but it’s fun to do other athletic stuff, I think it helps round me out better. Not dating anyone. Taking 2 classes at University of Alaska Anchorage this semester.
I have a dog named Greta that is really into running and stealing food. I play video games sometimes when I’m with my friends, Halo is always fun.
I do my friends haircuts whenever they want. Took my clippers to Germany, I’m responsible for those diiiiirty mullets Luke (Jager) and Ben (Ogden) were rocking.
Photos from Alaska are courtesy of Gus Schumacher archive