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Interview with Finnish head coach Tommi Nikunen

April 21 , 2005

After such a successful season like last winter, what are your expectations for the upcoming Olympic season?

It is natural, that the expectations are really high. But the success from last season, doesn't grant anything for the next season. We have to work hard and believe, that the same things that brought success the season before will still be the ones to count on.

From time to time there are rumours that you are thinking about quitting your job to go back to university. What is true about that, and what are your plans for your personal future?

I have been studying at the university in Jyväskylä the whole year and will be finally ready with my studies on April 28. I have said, that four years with the same team are a long time. After that it is time to think about other possibilities. Now I am totally concentrating on the upcoming Olympic season and then, next spring, it is time to look for other things.
After they already achieved good results in the past, young Finnish athletes like Veli-Matti Lindström, Akseli Kokkonen or Janne Happonen had some problems recently. What were the reasons for that?

Akseli fell really bad last summer and that's why there was a long break in his training. This was also damaging his self-confidence and it seems that he didn't succeed in finding it again during the whole season. Veli-Matti and Janne Happonen where in the army the whole summer and winter. This effected their concentration a lot. Janne had quite a lot of problems with the equipment, mainly his skis.

In the last couple of years there have been a lot of new rules and reglementations (e.g.: equipment, BMI). What is your opinion about that?

The rules have been changed too much. Many of the new rules are good, but if there are changes all the time it cannot be good for any discipline.

Janne Ahonen had an amazing last season and is competing at a top level for about ten years now. What makes him so strong and constant in his performances?

He is one of the few athletes, who are ready to take the challenges and go for it 100 %. He has been a professional during ten years.

Although you are still a quite young coach, you already worked with the national nordic combined team and are now head coach of the skijumpers. What goals are left and could you imagine coaching in another country?

I have always had goals in my life, like one should. Some of them are related to skijumping and some to other things in my life. But certainly one must have goals in life! Coaching abroad would be really interesting, but then, also the task should be realistic and interesting.

US head coach Corby Fisher said in an interview with us, that his young age has positive effects on his relationship to the athletes. How do you look at that?

It has both, good and bad sides. In our case it has been working really well.

Risto Jussilainen made a successful comeback in the World-Cup last season after some bad years. Most people thought he might not be able to return. Did you expect that and what do you think about it?

I was hoping for it, but I knew it would be difficult. He did an incredibly good job and really deserved the success he got. He is a good example for many of us!

The sport is at a very high level at the moment and most competitions are pretty close. Is it now more difficult to achieve top results every weekend?

Yes, absolutely. I think that nobody can do it. Not even Janne could do it last season, even if he was really in good shape.

Can you tell us something about your top jumpers?

Janne Ahonen: A perfect athlete and a fine person. The work he has done, speaks for itself. He is getting better year after year.
Matti Hautamäki: One of the most talented skijumpers in the world. When he learns to control his thoughts he will be as good as Janne.
Risto Jussilainen: A real worker. He has all the chances to jump many successful seasons.
Tami Kiuru: He has been effected by the BMI rule. I hope, that he still has the strength to believe in his chances. He can be successful with the new rules, but that requires a lot of hard work.
Jussi Hautamäki: He has got all the abilities to come to the top. Last season he was training really well and if he continues the same way he will be heading for a really good season.

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