Two weeks before the start in Sölden, the Central Swiss World Cup rider explains in a big interview why a victory in Kitzbühel is more important to him than one in Beijing and why he is not involved in the climate issue.
rainer sommerhalder / che media
The men’s World Cup season starts on October 24th with a giant slalom on the glacier in Sölden. Marco Odermatt focuses on the overall standings and says before the start: “I’ve never trained so well”.
You are always in a good mood in public. The good mood and her looseness stand out. Is there also the thoughtful, sad Marco Odermatt?
Marco Odermatt: Yes, there is. At the World Cup, for example, I was disappointed after the races. But I can quickly leave those moments behind. The fact that I am generally successful in my sport helps me to tick these things off faster and to look ahead.
“It may sound a bit strange now, but I don’t think so much of the Olympics.”
How long did you mourn the missed medals at the World Cup?
On the day of the race I was angry, the morning after it was over for me.
But did you gnaw longer at the unlucky lost duel for the overall World Cup?
No (laughs). The victory in the World Cup wasn’t something I could count on either. Maybe I would have needed more time for processing if I had been a top favorite for years and it just never worked. However, I would have signed for second place immediately before the season.
The same challenge follows this winter: At the Olympics, medals are required on a specific day, and for the World Cup in Constance for the entire season. What is more important?
I weight the overall World Cup a little higher than the Olympic Games. It might sound a bit strange now, but I don’t think so much about the Olympics. Especially when the Winter Games are held in countries that have no relation to alpine skiing and the competitions in Switzerland can only be seen in the middle of the night.
Marco Odermatt – to the person
The 24-year-old is probably the most complete Swiss skier. In 2018 he won five gold medals at the Junior World Championships. Last winter he won World Cup races in giant slalom and Super-G, made a total of nine podium finishes in these two disciplines and also took three top 10 places in the downhill. He finished the overall World Cup in second behind the Frenchman Alexis Pinturault. Odermatt grew up in Buochs and lives in a shared apartment in Beckenried.
Just like in Tokyo.
Yes. It would never have occurred to me to even set the alarm once to watch a competition in the middle of the night. I think that will be the case for many in February who normally watch our races on TV. I regret that.
So Olympia is not a childhood dream for you?
No. As a boy, I never dreamed of an Olympic medal. I am now primarily looking forward to the highlights of the Ski World Cup, such as the classics in Adelboden, Wengen or Kitzbühel. I am happy that these races have continued to be of great importance for many years.
And a good place in the overall World Cup reflects the consistency over a whole season?
Exactly. I think the overall World Cup is the most important currency in a sport like skiing. People talk intensely about a major event for two or three weeks and then quickly forget it again. But of course, an Olympic medal is part of a great career.
So is Marco Odermatt declaring war on the competition in terms of the overall World Cup?
Yes, of couse! That is my big goal in the short, medium and long term, because it is the greatest success in skiing. You need luck to be at the forefront in several disciplines over a longer period. I succeeded in this step and that’s why I’m one of the favorites for the overall World Cup.
What are other goals?
If you want to compete for the overall World Cup, you have to win races. It’s so easy to say, but to be at the forefront in two or three disciplines, a lot has to go together on every single race day.
Let’s talk about the Olympics again anyway. Only medals count there. You missed this goal at the World Cup last winter. What are the lessons from this?
Some! I felt how long these two weeks felt in the same place. The same room, the same food. I usually travel from place to place, do a practice or two and a race or two, and then I move on. I was in Cortina for two weeks, then races were postponed. All of this takes energy – physically, but above all mentally. For example, in order to be able to complete a giant slalom training session, I traveled by helicopter from the race directly to the training area.
It will hardly be any different in Beijing.
No, but with the knowledge from Cortina I can better adapt to this situation.
They consciously create islands outside of sport, where the fun factor is in the foreground. How important is this to you?
This is very important to me. For example, I like to go to the exit from time to time when the time is right. I am a top athlete, but at the same time I was a teenager and now a young adult who wants to lead a normal life at least a little bit. In this way I also learned to change over relatively quickly. When it’s serious, I have to be fully focused and ambitious. This is also the case for me in every single fitness training session in summer. I’m extremely consistent about that.
And there must also be space for free time?
My persistence in training gives me the good feeling that I know that I can treat myself to a sociable evening at the lake or an after-work beer with friends. I’ve learned to flip the switch quickly and consistently. This quality is also worth its weight in gold during the season when you drive as many races as I do. It is important to flip the switch very briefly in order to optimally set phases of tension and relaxation.
The ability to stay relaxed despite pressure is what defines the champion! Is that your recipe for success too?
Yes that’s what I think. You can’t be tense and focused from the start in Sölden to the World Cup final in March. Our cool team also makes a decisive contribution to my switching off so well. In a private team, I would be much more focused on exchanging ideas with a trainer and service man and thus reduced to pure skiing topics.
So is there no change of heart with you to a private team like with Alexis Pinturault?
Can you describe your attitude as “ambition without stubbornness”?
It’s not that bad. Of course I am ambitious when it comes to sport. Even with little things: If we go to mini golf after training, I want to win there too. Everyone in our team has this ambition. There are differences in looseness. Some put them on display, but don’t really have them. Others do not show it, but they do have it internally. I do not pretend to be myself.
You speak to the committed giant slalom troop. What is it that makes them special?
The friendships that have developed over the years. We are very open with each other and support one another. The ambition of each individual also pushes. And sometimes the stupid sayings too (laughs).
And what does friendship bring for you as a racing driver? Peter Müller, for example, didn’t get his motivation from such friendships?
It is probably very type-dependent. There are many drivers who do not want to interact with each other in their free time. For me personally, the friendships make the time together more pleasant and fun. And it also makes me feel relaxed because I know that someone is there when things don’t go well for me.
The more successful you are, the better known you will become. Do you feel the consequences?
Yes, through my successes I was even more present in the media. Also internationally. Anyone who is a little connected to skiing knows me by now. I am also recognized more and more often in public.
The popularity is still not a burden?
It is not a burden, but there are certainly moments when the consequences of popularity are not only pleasant. Then when you want to have some peace and quiet. I’ve made a rule that I take time for autographs or selfies during the day, but don’t feel like doing them in the evening or when going out. I tell people that too. I admire a Roger Federer who, even after 20 years, still goes along with it with stoic composure.
“When it comes to the climate issue, I cannot convey the credibility that I believe is necessary.”
Roger Federer is involved in several areas. Are there any issues outside of sport that you also deal with?
I am open to various topics and have a wide range of interests. The global situation with Covid also leads to lively discussions in my environment. Or current topics such as the situation in Afghanistan. In view of such images, one can feel very privileged as a Swiss.
And what about the climate discussion? Isn’t it shaped by people of your generation?
We experience the change very closely when we train on the glacier. Ultimately, however, I cannot and do not want to lean too much out of the window on this subject. Because of my job, I don’t have the best ecological footprint. That is why I am cautious about this subject in public.
But are you on the subject?
In any case. It makes you think. And I admire all the people who work for it. But I cannot live it 1: 1 and thus also not convey the credibility that is necessary from my point of view.
You were with your new sponsor Red Bull in Salzburg. What are the first impressions like?
I was there for a week, looked at everything, trained in the performance center and did my tests there. I was thrilled by the familiar nature and the friendliness of the people. Everyone tries to support you. This spirit is great. But neither should one hope for miracles. At Swiss Ski we are already in a great position when it comes to performance diagnostics and we work very professionally. And at the Red Bull Center, too, a 20-kilo dumbbell ultimately weighs 20 kilos.
What did you learn from these tests?
I was there with my fitness trainer from Swiss Ski. That was very important to me because it should be an ideal interaction and not two competing systems. I am currently deliberately not aiming for any personnel changes, for example with specialists from Red Bull. My current team is a very good fit. But at best it gives me alternatives for the future.