A shiver ran down my spine! Dušan Kožíšek, a coach assistant of the Czech cross-country skiing team experienced several races in the home arena during his active career. He remembers it was always an extraordinary experience. That is also why the participant in three Olympic Games and a double medallist from the World Championship watches out the World Cup in Nové Město na Moravě with high expectations. It is on programme on 18th and 19th January.
Did you like the races in front of the home fans? Were there moments that you looked forward to and enjoyed?
From the historical point of view I was quite successful on Czech tracks within Tour de Ski or World Cups. I never put a special pressure to starts at Czech trails. However, when I looked back at my results and considered it, it was not a coincidence that I gathered one of the best results at home.
Did the crowds of fans near the trails in NMNM or Liberec boost your energy level?
The atmosphere was always extraordinary. Sprint, which was my main discipline, is very specific. When the racers advance to the finals, they take part in the starting boxes. The moment I heard my name I only heard hustle of the crowd, a shiver was running down my spine. And when I remind of my first performance in NMNM, it’s really a very special experience. The number of supporters along the trail was incredible. It felt like a roaring tunnel where nobody could hear his/her breath. It was even unpleasant because the racer’s perception is a little broken.
Can the home atmosphere influence the Czech racers in a negative way during the upcoming weekend, i.e. is it understood as a burden regarding too big expectations?
It is a very individual matter. If I speak generally, there are racers that are able to go beyond their maximum and they don’t need any special motivation. On the contrary, there is another group of racers that are boosted by the fans and they can go much faster pace than usual. It is, of course, important to secure it in order not to burn themselves right at the beginning. But it’s rather an extreme case.
Is it valid also for your team?
All Czech skiers will definitely be excited if there are lots of fans along the trail. There are some places without them. There will hopefully come a lot of them to NMNM to support their sportsmen and women, which increase the level of their performance. We have quite a lot of racers that will debut here at the World Cup. The performance in front of the home spectators will mean a huge experience. And I don’t hesitate it will be positive.
How do you evaluate this season’s development of Czech skiers?
Very positively. After last season, we noticed some progress. And I’m not talking only about men. The women also got better, I’m trying to give them advice and my experience.
Bad snow conditions of this winter enabled organizers to make only 4km long circuit instead of 5km that was originally planned. Is it a trouble?
Not at all! Sometimes there are races of the World Cup also on a shorter circuit. There are not many 5km circuits in the world. And in terms of fans it is an advantage because they will see the racers more often and their support for our skiers will be more intensive, concentrated.
Do you consider the World Cup in front of the home fans as the top venue of the whole season?
There is no World Championship in this season, no Olympic Games so this weekend in NMNM can be taken as the top. Regarding the high number of young racers I also have to mention U23 World Championship that is also very important for a big part of our team.
What results will make you happy after the NMNM?
I don’t have too big expectations for men. Only maybe for Michal Novák but he got ill before Tour de Ski and used also antibiotics so I’m sure his performance will be influenced by this fact. So far we have gathered the best results from men in sprint, however, this discipline is missing in NMNM. I think we’ll be happy for every single point.
You have been the coach assistant for the second season. Did you make it to fully adapt to this role after transfer from the trail as a racer?
Everything is more automatic for me so my job is calmer. I admin our social networks, instagram. If there are no photographers with us, I take videos and photos. I’m trying to catch some shots right from the trails so the fans can see everything authentically. But I do this in my free time. My main job is, of course, trainings and the racers‘ technique improving.
What about your family? Don’t they complain that you are off more often than when you were an active racer?
It’s not like that. I spend more time with my family then earlier. It’s also thanks to the fact I don’t have to attend trainings twice a day. Sometimes I have a free weekend or there is a bigger lap between the races. I think I’m at home quite often.