Interview taken from the Thuringian newspaper "Freies Wort" from January 8th 2002, just before the World Cup in Oberhof

"As fantastic as a moon landing"

Q: Congratulations for two anniversaries.
S: Which anniversaries? 

Q: 20 years ago you started your career in sports and 10 years ago you made your world cup debut.
S (checks in surprise): You are right. It's nice being reminded of that. One doesn't think about these things during the season.

Q: How do you sum up these 20 years?
S: Apart from later achievements, which couldn't at all be expected then, I'm still grateful to my parents, who supported my attendance at the KJS (Children- and Youth Sports School) in Oberhof. This was a great opportunity for my personality development.

Q: Which event was the most determining one?
S: No doubt it was my first participation in the Olympic Games in Lillehammer 1994. This dream of every sportsman seemed completely unrealistic for me one year before and became reality. It was as fantastic as a moon landing.

Q: Back to the present. After your delated start in the current season because of a cold, will you take the offensive at your home game in Oberhof?
S: I feel fit and healthy and hope I'll approach to my best shape in Oberhof like the year before, because the Olympics are near at hand. But I hope for appreciation if I can't reach a place on the rostrum this time. Priority is established on the Olympics of course. That's why I won't take part in the world cup in Antholz.

Q: How often do you think about your great performance and triumph at the mass start competition of last year, when you managed to overtake the leading Vitek and Rozhkov just before the finishing line?
S: Very often. I still don't know what – with the help of the crowd beneath the track – physically and psychically happened to me about 400 m before the finishing line. In many competitions, when I see another athlete in front of me, I still think about that special situation. Then I wish I was lent wings again. And during training in Oberhof, when I pass that point before the bridge, I have the scene in mind aswell. This triumph in Oberhof was a moment of extraordinary emotions.

Q: Is a home game explicitly straining?
S: It's a tightrope walk between being extremly close to the fans and top event. It's not the distance from start to finish that's the problem, but the distance from finish to start. Actually, one should be accomplished by bodyguards, but we as biathletes are not that unapproachable. You can't leave the many fans, who keep their fingers crossed for you all year long, standing there. But you have to channel the hustle and bustle here in Oberhof and Ruhpolding.

Q: One of the favorites for all the competitions here is undoubtedly Ole Einar Björndalen. What do you think about him and his excursions to cross country competitions? Would you call him a fantast oder a phenomenon?
S: You have to be a bit crazy in high-performance sports. For me, Ole Einar's double game is phenomenally and on the other hand, it proofs that we as biathletes can be great in cross country skiing, at least in the skating technique. But the training- and competition schedule made by the German Ski Federation is that close, that excursions like these are almost impossible. There is more freedom in Sweden and Norway concerning that.


The interviewers were Werner Bache and Thomas Sprafke