In a long interview Ladies-Skijumping.com editor Stefan Diaz talked to Germany’s Ulrike Grässler about the changes the first World Cup season brought, her sporting situation and many other things.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: This winter we experienced the first World Cup season in history. You took fourth place in the overall World Cup. Are you happy about this season?
Ulrike Grässler: Generally speaking, yes. I have shown that I’m able to achieve good results constantly. But of course it was a little bit annoying that I missed third place so often. But better five times fourth, then maybe once second and always behind.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: Two years ago you were one of the two best jumpers. Back then there were some really great face-offs in the Continental Cup between you and Daniela Iraschko. The winter before and the last two summers were not so successful for you. What did you change now to regain stability?
Grässler: Well, the summer of 2010 was not easy for me. I had lost the motivation to jump a little. I was just missing acknowledgment and was wondering why and for whom I am doing this sport. I also had my final exams at the Federal Police. I improved slowly after the beginning of the winter , and just when I was back in shape I suffered a severe fall in training. That was a drawback. Right before the World Championships I got back into shape, but then the Championships were like the whole season, an up and then a down (editor’s note: Graessler was 3rd after the first round but eventually came in 19th). Before the last summer we got a new coach, Andi Bauer. Of course it took some time until we got used to each other. But over time the confidence grew, and so did my self-confidence. I think it was also an important factor that I found joy in jumping again.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: What role did the fact that you have now finished your education as a police officer and that you are now able to focus on jumping on full-time play in your life?
Grässler: I think the most important thing after finishing my apprenticeship was, that I finally had some time for myself. After six years at a boarding school and four years at the Federal Police, I was able to move back to my hometown. There I have my own flat now. I am really feeling comfortable there and I am able to get away from it all. That’s very important for me. But of course I have to mention that also the time at the boarding school and at the police academy was always very nice and I am glad that I have chosen this way.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: So the general set-up is just right at the moment for you?
Grässler: Absolutely. Although I have to travel a lot around by car, it was a good decision to move home. At the moment everything is great fun and I am already looking forward to the next season.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: The acknowledgment you were missing still a year ago: Did that change now as the World Cup was introduced?
Grässler: Yes. Now I get more congratulations for an eight place finish then I got before for a victory. In general I receive more respect. Now I can concentrate more on what I am doing and without needing to justify myself. People just know what you are talking about when you say “World Cup”.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: Are there things that still need to be improved?
Grässler: For sure. We need more competitions and it would be great to have some larger hills back on the calendar, such as the K105 in Vikersund. But I think we should be content with what we have. We are on the right track and now we have to wait for the next steps patiently.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: Over the winter the idea to hold the season final on a K120 with a reduced number of competitors was discussed quite often. What do you think of that?
Grässler: I would like that. It would be a good conclusion for a season.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: Let’s change the topic a little. This season the two Sara(h)s roughed up the field pretty much. While Hendrickson turns 18 this year, Takanashi is only 15. Doesn’t it feel a little odd to be defeated by such a young jumper?
Grässler: Yes, it does. It would have been O.K. if the minimum age for participating in a World Cup was set to 16, as it was planned initially. I think one can win a World Cup and even the overall World Cup by the age of 17, this also happened with the men in the past. But 15 is a little bit too early in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, of course I respect the performance of Sara, she jumps very well. But with 15 you are simply not full grown. Maybe FIS should change the BMI rule, put it higher as was done with the men. I think the other advantage of these young girls is that they just jump and never experienced some kind of a crisis. But we have to accept that and work hard to keep pace with them.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: Keeping pace gives me the cue for having a look into the future: What are your goals for the next year?
Grässler: I just want to continue where I stopped this year. There is only a small gap I have to close to be a leading jumper again. In general the World Championships are a big goal and I also want to compete in all of the new mixed-team events.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: What about winning two medals at the World Championships? Is that on your list, or is that totally unrealistic?
Grässler: Well, hard to say, but of course I will try that. I have to get through the summer in good shape and without any injury. And also the others are not sleeping, so it will be really difficult. But I will try to do my very best.
Ladies-Skijumping.com: I wish you good luck for that. Stay without injuries and have a nice summer. Thanks a lot for the nice interview.
Grässler: Thank you.