Things haven't been easy for Austrian team leader and King of the Summer, Berni Gruber. After a smashing summer and a good winter preparation, the good results simply didn't want to come since the beginning of the season. To fis-ski.com, "Berni the Burner" spoke about being hard on oneself, the Austrian team spirit and the Road to Sochi and the Nordic Combined Triple.
People watching you at the beginning of the season had the feeling that you were suffering quite much with your weaker performances. How hard was this start of the season for you, especially mentally?
Berni Gruber: Yes, I have been suffering because I demand a lot from myself. I am a very ambitious person and even if I do well, I would like to do even better and do everything perfectly. In some life situations this is not ideal, for example also when I am playing the guitar and composing songs.
At the beginning of the season, I tried to prove to myself that I have what it takes and that did not work out so great, so I was not at ease with myself. Mentally, it was not an easy time for me but then I said to myself: "You have shown several times already that you know how to do it. You have to go back to the roots and just do old, familiar things." So, yes, the season start has been hard, especially considering that my preparations went very well.
This last weekend in Schonach did look a little brighter for you already with a sixth and a eleventh place. What's your bottom-line for this weekend? Are you on a good way?
Gruber: Schonach has always been a good place for me. I like to be there and so I was looking forward to come. Yes, things are brightening up. I picked myself up and started to work step by step. It seems my work is paying off and of course I will give everything to be a player among the top athletes again. I am on the correct way and it is fun to be able to direct a race and attack. Of course, failure is always an option for single days but I hope that I have found my general balance now and will be able to constantly show good performances.
Looking at the whole team, things seem to be getting better, too. How do you explain this collective improvement? Is it simply pushing each other or have you changed something?
Gruber: We always have quite a good team spirit. In Austrian, we say "Der Schmee läuft", it's important to have fun together. We tried to encourage each other as we have trained very well over a whole year and it can't be real that everybody else is that much better. So, we started to trust in our work and as you can see, the whole team started improving. So in a way, going through this hard time made us into an even tighter group, pushing each other to go for the top.
How will you be spending the Christmas holidays now?
Gruber: I really like Christmas. It will be a couple of quiet days with my family, girlfriend and close relatives which helps me to relax, let go and come back with fully charged batteries in the new year. Of course there will be Christmas carols and guitar playing underneath the Christmas tree! (laughs)
Your Christmas wish this year?
Gruber: Health, that's the most important thing. But success in the sports part, too, of course.
How do your plans after Christmas look like? Will you go to Chaikovskiy or how will your preparation towards the Nordic Combined Triple and the Sochi Olympics look like?
Gruber: The coaches and me decided not to go to Chaikovskiy and instead go for a couple of training days. I am this close to be able to come back to my "Berni-bombs" on the hill which is giving me a very positive feeling. I will not give up on this but in order to do so, I need some more training units on the hill. And some training kilometres on cross-country skis to rock the tracks, too! (laughs)
Of course, Sochi is the big goal this season but I am also very sure that the Triple will be a highlight before. On top of that, it's in Austria which will mean a great atmosphere! This will be so exciting, I can't wait!