The return of the FIS Cross-Country World Cup to Czech pleased also historically the most successful Czech cross-country skier Kateřina Neumannová. Former Olympic champion and world champion looks forward to Nové Město na Moravě where she will support her successors on 18th and 19th January. Based on her experience she knows that the home race can be a tough exam for the racers, however, if they surmount the pressure it can help them towards great results. It was her case when she won twice in Vysočina Arena in 2005.
"I won two races there and I was also sitting second soon after I gave a birth to my daughter, so it was an amazing race for me," Kateřina Neumannová remembered during an interview.
Can you remind of your first World Cup race in the home atmosphere?
I can’t remember it well but it wasn’t any highlight I guess, I surely suffered at least a bit.
Did the track in Nové Město suit you during your career?
I didn’t like it there for a long time, I thought it didn’t suit me but then I found out it didn’t matter what the track is when a racer is in good form. I would love the current track.
In which was Nové Město specific?
Old tracks were quite arrhythmic, too many changes of pace, such motocross up and down and it was hard to get in rhythm. In this way it was difficult. The current form of the arena goes with modern trends of tracks that are built all over the world. Nové Město can have a different climate. It’s only highlands, not mountains. There are often weather changes and different snow quality so it can be more demanding concerning service. Nevertheless, if a racer is excellent, he/she can race on any track. Tracks here are trending, technically demanding, well arranged for fans and interesting for television.
How much can the knowledge of the track help Czech skiers?
It’s an advantage if you have a chance to spend training camps there and service men know the conditions as well that regularly repeat. But if a skier is of top quality, he/she comes and wins no matter what. The knowledge of the track itself doesn’t help you if you didn’t train enough in summer.
Does a skier notice fans?
Of course, but subconsciously. It’s different if you go an amazing race and then the fans give you huge energy and your performance goes beyond 100%. But if you’re not much successful on that day it‘s not supporting because you feel rather ashamed. I myself experienced both situations. But in general I think the home support is a plus.
What advice would you give to current skiers?
To be calm before the race and try to filter off they would go in the home arena, not to be pushed by the pressure, which is there, and to use the energy from the fans. Until a skier goes on track, it‘s very difficult to deal with it in terms of psychology and atmosphere. But if the skier is on track and has the fans‘ support, that’s amazing. It can really help.
Who out of Czech skiers will have the biggest chances?
The most important thing is to stay healthy. Michal Novák is well-prepared for the season, is determined and is able to face the pressure of the home atmosphere. Katka Razýmová also fantastically entered the new season.
You know Bára Havlíčková very well who should have her premiere in the World Cup. How difficult this is going to be for her?
The premiere and moreover in the home atmosphere, that’s tough and extra mental strain. But Bára has had some big races in international competition such as world championship and Olympic games. It will depend only on her how focused she can stay and if she can eliminate the fact she has got many friends there. If she believes in herself and that she is well-prepared, it should not be a problem.
Will not you have any feeling like to rather jump on track instead of watching the races in Nové Město?
I had this feeling one or two years after I finished my career. Nowadays I’m glad I can ski just for fun in the evening after all this chaos finishes so I can feel the track and ski there. The pre-race atmosphere keeps me cold and I’m happy I can stay in my jacket.