Interview Andreas Goldberger


Interview Andreas Goldberger


During his career Andreas Goldberger notched up three overall World Cup victories and won a World Championship. Looking back, the man from Upper Austria rates ski flying at Kulm emotionally as the very summit. Ski jumping has always been one of his strong points. In 2000 he set a new record of 225 metres in Planica. Goldberger is still in the thick of ski jumping today, as a co-commentator with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation and as test jumper with a helmet-mounted camera. “Jumping today is pure pleasure for me,” the man from Innviertel admits.

How did you get connected with Fischer?

Coming from Upper Austria as I do, I started ski jumping with Fischer – right at the source. And the Upper Austrian Ski Federation took very much the same view.

What got you into ski jumping?

There was a ski jump in Waldzell – but it no longer exists. My brother, who’s four years older than me, used to ski jump there with his friends using Alpine gear. Once he took me along, l loved it and I stayed with it.

What did your first pair of jumping skis look like?

There wasn’t all that much choice in those days. We got our equipment from the skiing club in Waldzell, and you had to take what you got. I actually had shoe size 36 but unfortunately they had only size 40 in stock. I managed somehow, though. My first ski for jumping was 180 cm long, orange-red with Fischer transparent base. Orange on top, with Fischer in dark blue lettering and with Kandahar bindings. You got a pair from the club or the Ski Federation – usually second-hand. If you got a new pair of skis, that meant you were pretty good.

Were you in direct touch with Fischer then?

Yes, but only later, when I was in the C squad and was allowed to pick my skis up at the company. The dark red ski with white lettering – and what I found particularly cool: with a graphite base. Another thing was that my brother, who’d originally introduced me to ski jumping, was training as an electrician at Fischer. So I could pass him the skis for grinding when I was in Stams.

Have you still got any of your old skis at home?

The green ski I jumped on in the 1992 World Cup is definitely still in my parents’ house in Waldzell. And Richard Diess still has one of my first World Cup skis, too. He said he’d hang on to it for me.

Jumping skis have often changed colour. Does the colour make a difference in ski jumping?

Maybe black or red is a bit unusual. But as a rule you jump so often that you get used to it very soon and it makes no difference.

You were with a different sponsor briefly, but returned to Fischer in 1999. What were the reasons?

I noticed there’d been a change. Franz Neuländtner had ended his active career as a Fischer ski jumper, and had taken over the job of handling the ski jumpers at Fischer. Suddenly things got moving. We had known each other when he was competing, we got on well together, and he loved tinkering. Hans Stroi was awesome, too; he put wings on the skis and did other incredible things. That was against the rules, but nevertheless things like that developed the material further. Otherwise today’s shovel shapes and a lot of other things would never have emerged. You could say that high quality and the service provided convinced me it was worth coming back.

No doubt you had some real experiences with Franz Neuländtner? Plenty! (laughs) Neuli was and is a tinkerer. Many people underrated him. At the Ski Jumping World Championship in Vikersund different skis with a new sidecut suddenly made their appearance, and at first I couldn’t handle them at all. So I jumped with my old skis instead; that worked better, but I had no chance at all against Hannawald. After the Ski Jumping World Championship Neuli rang up to say he wanted to try the ski out with a different centre of gravity. The following Friday was a free training day at Kulm. We adapted the ski, and suddenly it worked. From then on I was among the first five again, right to the end of the season.

You’re not exclusively a ski jumper. How about Alpine and cross- country in your case?

I’m fond of both. It’s funny really: you notice that cross-country skiers and Alpine skiers are different sorts. It’s great to try everything out if the opportunity is there. That’s fun.

Judging by your build you’d be just right for cross-country. Didn’t you ever feel drawn to Nordic Combined?

Nordic Combined would have appealed to me, but when we were kids there was no opportunity of that kind. Back home in Upper Austria Nordic Combined didn’t really exist. It wasn’t until I started secondary school that I first tried out cross-country. The classic ski then was a ski with “fish scales” on the base, that was my first cross-country ski (grins).

Does any special anecdote occur to you in connection with Fischer? As a young whippersnapper I was a contestant at Bergisel. The snow was very wet, so the skis were correspondingly slow. Then Gerhard Thaller suggested that he’d try something out. Normally the skis were filed or brushed. But Gerhard had a base planer with him, and before I jumped he went over my skis with it. Something of the kind had worked all right in cross-country – but unfortunately it was no good for jumping. The plane must have been a bit too coarse for the snow – and the skis were even slower than before. The others left the hill at 91 km/h, and I just slid over it at a mere 88 km/h. Oh well, Gerhard meant well, and I was his test pilot – and besides, it might have worked (grins).

Then you had your cross-country baptism of fire at the Vasa race, didn’t you?

That time Gerhard Thaller did rescue me. By then he was no longer in charge of racing service, but he was on the spot as an adviser. We were all uncertain about what to wax with, because the forecast was masses of fresh snow. He took me aside and said: “Goldi, if you want to reach the finishing line, bring me your skis.” I brought him my skis and was on tenterhooks. He rubbed the skis down with emery paper and sprayed silicone spray on them, to stop them icing up. Then I skied on them – and it was just right. Quite a few people wondered what I had on my skis – a handmade zero ski, so to say.

And you were also in the Arctic Circle Race?

That was a real adventure. It does feel like a race, but whether you come in 15th or 20th doesn’t matter. Those three days are about survival. We were lucky, we had beautiful weather all week. Nonetheless, the three legs were tough. Each leg was between 50 and 60 kilometres, with about 1,600 metres’ difference in altitude. I really thought I wasn’t that bad at cross-country, but twice I had to take my skis off for uphill stretches, because l was so exhausted. On top of which it’s really cold: around minus 15 degrees in the daytime, but at night you sleep in a tent at minus 34 degrees. All the same, it was a fantastic experience, particularly as the fjords and the mountains make such a beautiful backdrop.

You had plenty of successes in your career. Was there one special success?

Various different ones. You can remember your first World Cup win. You can also remember exactly when you jumped 100 metres for the firsttime at Bergisel or in Bischofshofen. Becoming World Champion in ski flyingatKulmwithsomanypeoplewatchingisalsoveryspecial.And theFourHillsTournamenthasgreatprestige.Asasmallchildyoualways look up at the hill and would like to take part – and then you really dotake part, and on top of that you win. That’s pretty cool. The worldrecordjumpwasveryspecial,too.Suddenlyyou’retheperson who’s flown the furthest on skis. If I had to pick out one success ... (ponders) From a purely athletic point of view the ultimate is certainly winningtheoverallWorldCupthreetimes,becauseyouhaveto begoodforsuchalongperiod.Emotionally,though,it’scertainly flying at Kulm.

These days you’re still on the hill fairly often. How do you feel about ski jumping now in comparison with the contests?

Jumping now is quite different from jumping in a contest. Jumping now is for pleasure. Like the difference between just skiing cross-country for fun or skiing in a race. Pushing yourself to the limit is painful. It’s the same in ski jumping. Now I’m not under pressure any more. Now I go jumping only if I feel like it, if the weather is fine and I know for sure that I’ll manage a good length. As a test jumper it doesn’t matter whether I jump 126 or 127 metres. The contestant must jump 133 or 135 metres, must push himself to the limit, must take a completely different risk. I can say, I feel it’s too windy today, today I won’t bother – as a contestant I can’t say that. The message then is, if you don’t jump today, you may not be at the Olympics. That’s the luxury I have as a retired sportsman.