Markus Eisenbichler is facing the 69th Four Hills Tournament.
The season 2020/2021 is up and running, and Markus Eisenbichler is on track: In November he won the ski jumping World Cups in Wisla and Ruka-Kuusamo. Beginning of December he achieved silver (team) and bronze (individual)at the Ski Flying WCH in Planica. But the world champion from 2019 has already put his focus on the next highlight: Alongside his Norwegian uvex colleague Halvor Egner Granerud, Eisenbichler is one of the top favorites on winning the 69th Four Hills Tournament.
Calm down to take off
“I have been under way in the world cup for weeks now“, says Markus, “after the weekend in Engelberg my hard drive feels pretty packed.“ To free his mind the 29-year-old likes to go on ski tours. Doing this before an event like the Four Hills Tournament gives him the chance to calm down and fill up his energy reservoirs. To be able to really take off.
How does it actually feel? If you manage to show one of these highly acclaimed giant leaps? Markus invites us to one of his really long jumps:
“Already on the in-run you feel good, you feel that you can fire a big one. On one side you are calm, and on the other side the anticipation rises with each meter that you are getting closer to the jump-off platform. The take-off itself is just a moment, short and explosive. As soon as you are in the air you know how far it can go. The transition to the actual flight has to be harmonic. Without any corrections with your arms you reach the V-position and lay on the air pad. The system closes like a barrier. Body and skis are one unit, as if they would engage in the air. This process only lasts one or two seconds. If the system of athlete, material and air has engaged you are stable. You know that you can push the envelope and can exhaust the jump to the maximum. Now you enjoy the flight and prepare for the landing. Clean touchdown, maybe even a Telemark. All receptors report to your brain: GREAT JUMP! It is now that you feel all the adrenaline for the first time, the tension disappears and transforms into pure emotion.“
»I am thankful for the opportunity to fly.«
In reality a jump like this is a highly complex procedure. At the jump-off table Markus pushes himself vertically upwards. The incline of the table plus the wedges in the boots and skis transport the muscle power forward and lead him to his extreme leaning forward position. “Sometimes I ask myself how I do that. I am thankful that I was allowed to train and improve for such a long time, to be able to jump and fly on the level that I am doing right now.“
The head decides the Tour
At the moment Markus manages to fly like only a few. Can he even crown himself to the winner of the Four Hills Tournament? “If I am able to show my full potential in not only one but respectively in two good jumps, everything is possible“, he says. In doing so the head plays an important role: “Ski jumping is a very sensitive sport. You have to have this all around sense of well-being, also in the relation to your coaches and in your private environment.“
»How do you react when a jump goes wrong?«
The psychology of ski jumping is simple: If it works it works. And if not? “Then you see how strong an athlete really is“, says Markus. “How do you react when a jump goes wrong? If you miss the feeling? Then it gets tricky!“ And this is exactly what he admires the Polish Kamil Stoch for who has been up on top for many years. “This is really impressive. To show such a consistency, this is real success for me.“
Excitement watching TV
2020/2021 the Four Hills Tournament, for the first time in its 70-year-history, will take place without an audience. How do the athletes prepare for that? “If you jump into a sea of cheering flags, the feeling carries you another two or three meters“, says Markus: “But even without this atmosphere great sport is possible. I am sure that we can inspire the people even on TV.“ And by doing this the silence can even be an advantage.
»I try not to think.«
“The audience can push you. But without all the hustle you might be able to be more concentrated and focused on your jump.“ On top of the ski jump Markus has his own ritual: “I adjust my goggles, try to breathe steadily, blank out everything and try not to think. Instead I trust my body. I feel that I will do the right things. Then I am ready for a long jump.“
And now? We will get a little closer on the jumps of the legendary Tour. Markus Eisenbichler introduces us to his “four friends“ in a very personal way:
“At he Four Hills Tournament it is like in a group of people that are very close to each other. Oberstdorf is the best friend. He builds you up, is always there for you, you can rely on him a 100 percent. Garmisch is the jump for aviators, with her you feel light and unbelievably good. For me Garmisch is my girl-friend that I love. Innsbruck? Oh my god ... Innsbruck! This is your buddy that is always good for a saying. He can get on your nerves. And still you like him, because you appreciate his open and direct way. Finally Bischofshofen: He is the silent companion, he calms you down, when you are emotionally loaded and all churned up. With him you can sit down at a table, say nothing and simply be.“