Jochen Behle, 51, has been the German national cross-country head coach for almost ten years. He was one of the initiators of the FIS Cross-Country Ski World Cup in Dusseldorf, he has led the German athletes to the world’s top during his time of office and brought World titles, Olympic gold medals and World Cup victories to the German Ski Federation, DSV. In the interview Behle comments on the upcoming World Cup opener, on the shape of his athletes – but also on motor sports fans among the cross- country skiers and on the importance of contracts in high performance sport.
Q: Mr Behle, the FIS Cross-Country Ski World Cup in Dusseldorf celebrates its tenth anniversary. What crosses your mind about that fact?
Jochen Behle: “The idea to take cross-country skiing into the cities already existed then. But Dusseldorf was the first metropolis to realise such a complex undertaking in such a dimension. With great success, as later proven. Since then this kind of races has been established; there are similar events, for instance in Stockholm, Drammen and other cities. But Dusseldorf is and remains the front event.”
Q: Among others, Josef Wenzl, the last German winner along the Rhine in 2007, Olympic medallist Tim Tscharnke and World junior champion Lucia Anger have entered for Dusseldorf. What shape are the athletes in and what do you expect from them?
Jochen Behle: “To be honest, I don’t know and hope to be pleasantly surprised. You simply can’t tell just on the basis of training up to now, the results of our various tests have been too different. You always need a bit of luck in the sprint, but we certainly have the potential to be among the top – in the men’s event rather in the team sprint, in the women’s event rather in the individual race.”
Q: What makes Dusseldorf special from the athletes’ point of view?
Jochen Behle: “It still is simply unusual to sprint in a track in a city and along a river. The atmosphere is special, and most of our events certainly don’t take place in front of so many spectators. Insofar the athletes are always looking forward to such great crowds. But for most of the athletes the following is true: They are professionals and try not to be impressed. At the end the only aim is to finish among the top.”
Q: And to the national coach? The course is extremely short and compact. Is that an advantage at observing the races?
Jochen Behle: “Not really, for my view on the course is mainly obstructed by the spectators. I have the same principle as at all other races: I rely on monitors and large viewing screens to get the picture of what’s happening.”
Q: The World Cup opener weekend was endangered for a long time as Norway has been suffering from lack of snow. The event had originally been scheduled to take place at Beitostoelen but it was held at Sjusjoen. Has this rescheduling had an effect on your preparations?
Jochen Behle: “No, it hasn’t had any effect on our training programme so far. However, the composition of the teams could still be changed at short notice depending on the two previous World Cup events before Dusseldorf. On principle we have designated the strong junior and sprint athletes to compete in Dusseldorf.”
Q: On the skiing weekend, Dusseldorf also plays host to the motor sports greats, competing at the ‘Race of Champions’ at ESPRIT Arena. Will Jochen Behle also watch Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher?
Jochen Behle: “Certainly, if I have the time. And I’m sure that some of our athletes will also take that opportunity. There are a few who even get up during the night to watch Formula 1 races. But it would be nice if the guys were to come to us too.”
Q: Next year you will have been national coach for ten years – you have already won everything there is to win. How long is your contract with the German Ski Federation running?
Jochen Behle: “I don’t have a real contract. What for? Contracts in high performance sport don’t really count, as proven by many examples. My motto is: either it fits or it doesn’t. And concerning my work for the Federation everything went very well in the past years. That’s why my personal plans run until the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, that’s what I can say. But what’s coming after that, I don’t yet know.”
Press Release by www.worldcup-duesseldorf.de