For Olympic athlete, Johannes Rydzek, it’s all about the experience.
Johannes Rydzek is the Nordic Combined double Olympic champion and six-times world champion. Now, the exceptional athlete is looking forward to his “home world cup” in Oberstdorf. Naturally, he’d love to take the title. However, he says that it’s the experience itself that means most to him. Success comes and goes. Emotions last forever.
Glorious winters, fascinating ski jumps
“The winters in Allgäu are just amazing. We were always outside lots, the cross-country ski trails were on our doorstep,” says Johannes when asked how he got into Nordic Combined, where athletes compete in both ski jumping and cross-country ski racing. “I was totally fascinated by the big ski jumps in Oberstdorf. When I was out cross-country skiing as a boy, I would always look for bumps to jump over.”
“An amazing trip and a formative experience.”
His World Cup début at the age of 16 came somewhat unexpectedly: “I was at a training camp with the C youth squad in Norway. Out of the blue, my trainer called me in to the hut. They said: The day after tomorrow we want you to fly to compete in the World Cup in Kuusamo. So, I travelled on my own with my skis from Norway to Finland. “It was an amazing trip and a formative experience.”
High-speed strength vs endurance
Nordic Combination requires the high-speed strength of a ski jumper and the endurance of a cross-country skier. Does this make you feel like a more all-round athlete? Or do you feel like you have to compromise? “You need to be careful not to focus overly on one discipline. It’s a challenge to find the perfect balance,” says Johannes.
“My muscles like the variety.”
Endurance training is known to make muscles sluggish. So, other impulses are needed. “My muscles like the variety. It’s no bad thing to have good muscle tone – it makes me feel good about my body. Combing two sports is tough though. But it does make you a more all-round athlete.”
4 World Cup titles in 8 days
Johannes Rydzek enjoyed what might have been the most amazing the week of his life 2017 in Lahti. There he was the first nordic combined skier to win all four possible World Cup titles: Normal Ski Jump, Large Ski Jump, Team Event and Team Sprint. Was he really that good? Or were the others just not good enough? “I hit the perfect combination of being in peak condition and feeling totally relaxed. I had already won the Individual World Championship in 2015, so I was not under any pressure to defend it. Then I won the first event... and everything just started to flow.”
“It’s the moment that counts.”
Johannes won his first World Cup race in Lahti, Finland back in 2011. Six years later, he wrote history. He says: “Of course, success and winning four titles is really special. But to be honest, it’s the memories of this special time that mean the most. The emotions stay with you forever. In the end, it’s the moment that counts.”
Olympic Gold in PyeongChang 2018
A year later, in South Korea, Johannes won double gold at the Winter Olympics. The final sprint in the race over the large hill and 10 kilometres is simply legendary. Three German athletes Johannes Rydzek, Eric Frenzel and Fabian took Gold, Silver and Bronze – with just 0.8 seconds between them. Do you win a sprint like that with your body? Or is it all in the mind?
“I was so up for it in the final round”
“All three of us were in really good form. It was a close-fought race, we took turns in sharing the lead. When we hit the last round, I was so up for it! In the end, it’s a combination of willpower, tactics and self-confidence. The finish was unbelievable – this is exactly what I love about this sport so much.”
Composure in the storm
On exceptional days like that, an athlete might look totally free and unleashed on the outside. However, inside they are probably feeling very different. “It’s not about the others, instead you’re totally immersed in running your own race. During that final sprint in PyeongChang, I was at one with myself, with my movements, my effort and my focus. It was really intense. And yet at the same time, I felt totally calm.”
“No podium finish, but a cool race!”
These kinds of feelings are the goal that Johannes works toward. This means that sometimes, the actual results themselves are less important. “I’m not motivated by medals. I’m motivated by the pure joy of sport. At the World Cup in Lahti at the end of January, I came fourth. So, no podium finish, but an extremely good jump and a cool race! I felt good... I was composed... It was an amazing day, and one that I’m grateful for.”
Inner satisfaction is the best form of success
Inner satisfaction that is only thing that really matters, says the six-times world champion. This is why it’s important to distinguish between your performance and the result: “I can influence my personal performance. However, it’s the other athletes who determine the result. There are times when I have been happier at coming fourth than other times when I have come in third.
“Coming fifth can still make you happy.”
Johannes Rydzek sets out with precisely this attitude at his home Nordic World Ski Championships: “Oberstdorf is my back yard. If I can do enough to get a medal here, of course that would be amazing. But if I come, say fifth or seventh after a good and intense race, then I’ll be just as happy. Easy to say maybe. But I really mean it.”
What is the most memorable moment in his career? Johannes remembers it clearly: “The 2017 World Cup in Lahti. The 10-kilometre race from the small ski jump. The sun was low in the sky, we had fresh snow and it was eight degrees below zero. A super jump, followed by an amazing race. At the end, I skied into the finish carrying the flag all on my own. Snow crystals whirling through the air in front of me. It was a really magical moment.”
Johannes Rydzek on uvex:
“It’s good to know that you have the best-possible protection. My partnership with uvex goes far beyond my own sport. I spend a lot of time in the mountains. Whether downhill skiing, mountain biking or ski touring, uvex has been my companion for many years. I use uvex equipment 365 days a year. It gives me the freedom to get out in nature and do and experience exactly what I want to.”