For most sport and skiing fans the skiing season begins with the first World cup race in Sölden. Although those who are a little closer linked with the sport, know that the season in some way started already back in July. Skiers have had already a number of skiing days in their legs and everyone can hardly wait for the first race. This is a unique opportunity to measure themselves against others. They can learn how well they have trained during the summer months and whether they eventually have to change things before the U.S. tour.
For me, this is certainly the most unusual Sölden in my career. For the first time I'll be here and not participate in the race. Sölden had in many ways a very dramatic impact on my skiing career. At the end of 2002, I was only a fifteen-year-old child, I entered into the world of serious skiing. Earlier in the same year I qualified for the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and achieved a record for my age. I was the youngest competitor at the Olympic Winter Games and to everybody's surprise I achieved some very good results. The 23rd Place in the slalom was more than expected from a little brat, which had only three months before driven in the juniors.
But now back to Sölden. I had just survived my famous first season in the FIS and was at the Olympic Winter Games. I have trained throughout the whole summer and a few days before the start of the season, the union decided to give me a chance at the race in Sölden to compete next to Janica. Nika Fleiss and I had our internal qualifications in Hintertux where our training camp was situated. After a few rounds I won with only few hundredths. The award for me was something much more precious than any medal and my performance brought me to my first race World cup. To the general surprise, I came in spite of a very high starting number into the second run. I managed to finish in the top thirty and even referred the former superstar Michaela Dorfmeister on the spot. For these reasons, I am closely connected to Sölden and have very special memories. I am anxious to be here again this year, although in a slightly different role. But more about that another time….
On Sunday, all eyes will be fixating Ivica. After a fantastic season last year and winning a large and two small crystal globes, Ivica is now in the skiing world known as “the boss". At least he got that nickname in a recent interview from the Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal. I had the opportunity to speak with Ivica and I have been watching him these days during the training sessions and was glad that he is more motivated than ever before. Knee injuries and operations which now belong to the past and he is completely ready for new victories.
At an award ceremony a few days ago he was asked how he would now, after the success of the Great globe be able to motivate himself again. Ivica said that he believes that it is impossible to achieve all his goals, but there is always something you can do better. One should raise the bar a little higher and then figuring out for himself how to continue to drive and motivate himself. His priority this season is the improvement in the Downhill and Giant Slalom. In the Slalom competition to remain constant and to prove that he can compete against the best in the Super-Giant Slalom. He also stressed the importance of Janica in his team, considering they have grown up together skiing. He said they were separated in recent years due to the commitments around the world and this was highly unusual for him. That Janica is through her support, definitely one of the main wheels in his machinery. I think he's more than ready to show to everybody this year, who the world's best racers is.
I'm looking forward to the start of the season, the achievements of Ivica and our entire team, I am grateful that I was allowed to spend a few days with them in fine, sunny weather in Hintertux.The excellent training facilities and the level of motivation present, reminds me once again why skiing is such a special sport and that I was lucky to have had 15 years the best job in the world.
To all my skiing friends I wish a successful skiing season, full of health and every morning a smile on their faces!
Greetings from Sölden.
Author: Ana Jelušić