By Ulrika Svensson
After six months without skiing, the motivation is higher than ever for Maria Pietilä-Holmner. We had an opportunity to discuss the situation with the Swedish racer, who is increasingly returning to normal training after her knee injury in the middle of last season. Her big goal for next season is, of course, the Worlds in Schlaming, where she will defend her medal from Garmisch 2011.
You are on your third camp on snow now - how do you feel and how is it going with the injured knee?
MPH: I feel great and really enjoy being able to ski again! For the first few days on snow, I felt kind of unsure and did not know how my knee was going to react. But after a couple of days of free skiing and exercises and given the base work we have done I can now trust my knee and can risk to push a little harder every day. I do my own setup on the mountain with more breaks so as not to overexert in the beginning. For the physical conditioning, I still do a lot of complementary rehab exercises, but soon I will be back to “normal” training.
You talked earlier about the fact that this involuntary pause has provided you a lot more motivation and almost a hunger for skiing . How did it feel to put your feet back into the boots and get on the skis again?
MPH: These six months without skiing have been very good for me. For almost ten years, I have lived this life, with the same schedule every season from August to May. It is easy to get stuck in the routine. In addition to increasing my motivation for skiing again, this break has helped me develop some new ideas and thoughts on how to be an even better skier. It feels great to try to achieve this now!
What was the main change for you with not being on the tour during the spring?
MPH: Absolutely the biggest adaptation was to be at home for more than 14 days in a row. The first weeks after the injury were for sure a huge change on all different levels, but mostly mentally including the realization of how much work I had in front of me. But all the rehab at home and my new slow life on crutches kept me busy and the time passed by pretty rapidly. Of course it was hard and lonely to not be able to hang out with my teammates as frequently as usually, but I am also very happy that I had a lot of time to socialize with my family and friends at home, who had been put aside for a couple of years…
Are you at the level you want to be, both physically and in skiing?
MPH: Of course the injury has made me miss much physical training and above all skiing time. The positive thing about physical conditioning is that I have had the time to do other types of training parallel with my rehab, and because of that, I am stronger in other areas than normally. With 1.5 months to go until the season premiere I still have a lot of work to be at the level I want to be.You have some extra help from Oscar Andersson, a former European Cup racer - how has that worked out for you?
MPH: It has meant a lot for me to have Oscar around me for these first months and I am very glad that I have had that opportunity. It means in reality that I can do my own schedule and do what’s best for me, be more flexible and in that way not get stressed but rather listen to my knee. Oscar is a healthy breeze and spreads a lot of positive energy around him; he laughs a lot and if you feel good, you can perform better. And because he was competing until last season, he is in total control of technique, equipment and training ideas.
And the new skis, do they work?
MPH: In the first race with the new GS skis, I had a small shock! Rough snow and super-G turns from my side made the whole race uncontrolled. But after a couple of days the skis feel really good and there are no problems whatsoever to get these skis to turn around the gates. I like the challenge of having something new to work with!
And what are your thoughts for the season?
MPH: I have never had an injury like this, and therefore it is hard to know how everything will feel and when I will be back 100%. At the moment I just feel an enormous joy to be back skiing again, and I am very motivated to get back to the level where I was. I hope everything works out well and that I will be ready to compete in Sölden for the Opening. But I have decided not to stress about that and, in any case, my big goal for the season is Schladming in February.
Regarding Schladming 2013, you have a bronze medal from GAP 2011 to defend. What is your goal there?
MPH: The Worlds are my major goal this season and of course I will go there to fight for a medal!
All photos private