Swiss sprint specialist Laurien van der Graaff broke into the World’s skiing elite last winter. She scored four top 10 results and brought ladies Swiss Cross-Country Skiing back in the headlines. The young skier from Davos, that recently got a bachelor degree from biology at the University of Zürich, plans to focus solely on Cross-Country Skiing next two years. Her goal: A medal from the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Q: Laurien, who are you? Tell us something about yourself.
Laurien van der Graaff: I was born in Holland and grew up in Davos in bilingual environment, German and Dutch. Since when I was a kid I've had fun doing sports, I played tennis, football and skied. I found my way to skiing through JO Davos. After the sport high school in Davos I went to study Sport Science in Norway and recently finished the bachelor program at the University of Zürich. I like to communicate and speak five languages (in addition to German and Dutch, Norwegian, English and French) and I would like to pick up some Italian.
Q: What are you professional ambitions besides Cross-Country skiing?
LvdG: I am interested in issues related to diet and food technology. Let’s see, but for the next two years I will focus on the sport.
Q: Last winter you literally broke through. Where do you see the reasons?
LvdG: I have been asked many times if I changed something in my training or if I had a special secret. But I trained as in the years before. Apparently, I needed the time to reach this level. And of course, confidence comes with good results.
Q: In Düsseldorf you made it on the podium for the first time and then you scored a fifth place in Davos. How was it for you?
LvdG: In Düsseldorf, it was really something special. I don’t remember everything anymore but the prologue was great and in the finals I just did not want to finish fourth. So, all of a sudden I landed on the podium, it was excellent. And the 5th place in Davos was very valuable as I confirmed the result from Düsseldorf despite great expectations and pressure. It made me extremely happy.
Q: Could you explain us what it takes to be sprinter?
LvdG: It’s certainly not only about pure sprinting skills. Our heats take three, three and half minutes and a good endurance base is required. My advantage is I am vigorous, that helps at the start and in the finish and you cannot train this. Then a good technique and tactical sense is needed. In the summer the training is similar to distance skiers and we train often together.
Q: You have claimed your best results in the free technique. How is it with your classic?
LvdG: I feel very comfortable in the free technique. My greatest weakness in the classical technique is double poling, but I am working on it.
Q: As the Cross-Country skier, where do you see your future, in sprints or distance?
LvdG: I want to be in the front and my chances are higher in sprints, but I will continue to ski some distance races too. My big goal is a medal in sprint at the Olympics in Sochi.
Q: How does your World Cup program for the coming winter look like? Will we see Laurien van der Graaf in sprint in Val Müstair?
LvG: In November we sprinters are travelling to Canada quite early and will skip the first World Cups in Gällivare and Kuusamo as there is only one sprint on the schedule. My World Cup opener will be in Quebec and then we will head to Canmore. It would be really great if I could start on 1st January in Val Müstair, let’s see.
Q: And your goals?
LvdG: I want to be in the top 10 of the Sprint World Cup. I finished last winter in 14th position. Additionally I am looking forward to the pre-Olympic competitions in Sochi, one year later the most important competitions is taking place there.
Contributed by Markus Schild, www.nordic-online.ch