Austria has a new head coach who joined us for this week’s Tuesday Talk.
From now on, Willi Denifl will be in charge of the ÖSV women’s Nordic Combined national team, replacing Bernhard Aicher as head coach, who retired from his position after four years at his own request.
The 42-year-old was a successful Nordic Combined athlete himself until March 2019, before he switched to the second men’s training group as a jump coach after retiring. Denifl is now about to make the leap into the World Cup again, renewing the standard, by bringing two female coaches into the team.
As coach of the women’s national team, numerous tasks await you. What have the first few weeks been like in this new position?
There are indeed a lot of new tasks, but I like the position very much. There are many administrative things to do and structures to improve. That also included putting the coaching team together the way I envision it, and I think we’ve done that very well so far. Now I’m looking forward to the first training camp this week, so that I can talk to the athletes in more detail personally.
As a former athlete, you know the challenges of Nordic Combined very well. What are the current strengths and weaknesses of your team?
The women’s challenges are slightly different than the men’s, but the basis of Nordic Combined of Ski Jumping and Cross-Country skiing is of course identical. I think I have some experience, but women’s values are a bit different, which I’m aware of. I’ve read a lot about it in recent years and have worked a lot with Lisa Hirner, among others, and I’m in good spirits because she knows exactly which direction we need to go in.
The strength of our team is the balance, because we want to support not only the established athletes but also integrate the youngsters.
Overall, there is a lot to do, but there is potential in everyone and I’m very happy about that.
The first competitions will take place as part of the Summer Grand Prix. How important are these events to get an impression of the level of performance of your athletes?
The Summer Grand Prix is our yardstick and a welcome change in our everyday training because it fits in very well with us. It gives us the chance to to get a first overview of where we stand, where our performance level is and where we want to go. First and foremost, for us, it’s about getting some variety, so we don’t explicitly prepare for it.
Still, we’re all really looking forward to the competitions because it’s just great that we can have them in the summer, too. I particularly appreciate the compactness of the Grand Prix, which is well received by everyone and is a lot of fun for us.
You bring two female coaches to the World Cup team, a real rarity in the World Cup! What advantages does it have for the athletes to actually be able to work with women in the coaching team?
We set up our coaching staff a little differently. It was my wish as I believe that female athletes need female coaches. I think that’s very, very important and I’m happy that I managed to find two coaches who are willing to work with us.
Lisa Eisenbeitl will support me in athletics and in the strength training, because sensitivity is particularly important in this area and I myself still need some time to understand what is important there.
With cross-country expert Katerina Smutna, we have an experienced trainer on board who already worked for us last year and I am very happy that we managed to keep her in the team.
In my opinion, it’s a different level of conversation when women talk to women, so I have high hopes for our new team.
Now I’m just looking forward to a successful preparation in the summer and then to the winter when we can hopefully take the next step after Bernhard Aicher’s preparatory work was already great in recent years.
Standing still means going backwards and we don’t want that. With this team, I think we are now ready to take the next step and I look forward to it!
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