Carlo Janka : “Thanks to Neveplast ramp I improved my start performance “

Carlo Janka. We had a chat with the Swiss ski star after the easing of the lockdown restrictions on May 4th. He confessed he is looking forward to be back skiing on snow soon; meanwhile he doesn’t stop exercising, alternating dry workouts and intensive training at the start gate on the Neveplast ramp which for the last 4 years have been the regular training filed for the Swiss Ski Team and local ski clubs. From the Graubünden canton Carlo Janka sends its affectionate greetings to Bergamo.

A regular guy Carlo Janka; superstar attitude is really not his thing. A career, his, with a before and an after. In between are the injuries and physical problems that the talented skier of the Graubünden has been dealing with for 10 years now. “To me, skiing is still pure fun. Despite injuries and forced stops, the adrenaline I feel is the same I felt when as a boy I was racing with the ski club Obersaxen. If you no longer enjoy it, you cannot hope for good results. As long as I have fun, I go on”

Janka certainly is not the type of guy who looks back or feel sorry for himself and with this same attitude he is facing the difficult situation of this period. “I want to give a special greeting to Bergamo and Lombardy. I have never been to Bergamo but as soon as I can, I definitely arrange a visit. It is a tough time, especially for you in Italy and in Lombardy in particular. I am close to you all and from my Graubünden canton I send you all the energy I am capable of. It takes patience, courage and a lot of strength to overcome this situation. I believe that behind every crisis there is an opportunity. It will be true also this time”

When he was 19 he made his debut in the World Cup. In 2010, when he was only 23, he already had two heavy gold medals on his neck (Gold medal at the World Championship in Val d’Isere and Olympic gold at Vancouver giant slalom) and a crystal sphere that was missing from Switzerland since Pauli Accola back in 1992.

A great begin for him that as winner in all the disciplines was immediately considered the heir of Hermann Maier.
In 2011 physical problems began and never completely left him alone. Today at the age of 33, he is the happy dad of the little Ellie and maintains a relevant place among the Jet men of the red-crossed team.

The season 2019/2020 was the one of the rebirth with two podiums and some placement among the first ten.

Reached by phone, Carlo told us about his workouts and future aims, Covid-19 permitting.

1)How did you live the lockdown experience? Are you back in training?

I lived the lockdown with my family. Here the situation has always been quite under control. I was back in training only the 4th of May as soon as it was allowed. In this first phase of preparation, I focus as usual on the athletic preparation. When I will put my skies on an important part of my training will be done on the Neveplast slope that gives me the possibility to mainly improve the start technique.

2) When will you start training with the team on the glacier? Austrians should start in few days.

Our first training on the snow is planned, at the moment, for the first week of August. Hopefully the situation of the contagion will be under control. If it will not be possible to train on snow this summer, the ski slope Neveplast will definitely be a valid option.

From Spring 2016 in the Obersaxen local sport facility, on the grass next to the tennis court and the football field has been installed an artificial dry ski slope in Neveplast material. On the ramp, kids of the Swiss youth ski teams and the champions of the Swiss Ski Team (Carlo Janka among the others) practice intensive trainings to speed up their performance at the start gate.

The project of the original set up Neveplast included two parallel slides: a steep one (inclination 45%) and a gentle one. At the end of 2019 the steep slope was dismantled because the other one was judged to be more functional. The ski slope is long approximately 80 meters and is equipped with two chronometric detection systems that detect the speed in two different points: few meters after the start and at the end of the slope. The idea of getting in touch with the Italian company leader in the production of artificial dry ski slopes come from Pius Berni and Jorg Roter, respectively the first coach of Carlo Janka and his coach in 2016.
“In the realization of the project the work of our Swiss partner Borer has been fundamental – points out Niccolo’ Bertocchi, AD Neveplast – The fact that Janka and the athletes of the Swiss Ski Team trains on our ski slope to get better performances makes us really proud. I believe that our surface can be a significant tool in saving precious time at the start” says Bertocchi.

3)Carlo, how crucial is being fast at the start gate? Especially in the Downhill and Super -G, how important do you think it is?

Skiing competitions are all about seconds, actually hundreds of seconds.
Very often the hundreds of seconds are lost in the very first phase of the race that coincides with the exit of the gate. Obviously also in slalom a good start is a plus, however in those disciplines it plays a minor role. In the downhill instead, a bad start is very damaging.
The difficult starts however are the flat ones, like the Wengen one which is the flattest start of the whole World championship.

4) What role did the Neveplast ramp play in improving your performance at the start gate? The ski slope is not served by a conveyor belt, Pius Berni (historical coach of Carlo Janka) told me that for the first year, you walked 36 km up and down the slope.

Yes, luckily the year after the installation we managed to drive an electric bike uphill to get back to the start. I think I improved a lot thanks to the set up Neveplast that allows the simulation of the technical movement of the initial procedure at the start. The advantage is that in one day you can try the start even 15/20 times which is something that in the summer, on the glacier would be unimaginable. Once the technical gesture /movement on the ramp becomes automatic, you must repeat the same movement and feeling adapting it on the snow.

5) Talking about feelings. Do you believe that the Neveplast material gives the same sensations of skiing as on snow?

Neveplast is an excellent material that wonderfully simulates the practice of skiing on snow. It is very close to it but it is not the same. I think it is very important developing a material with the exactly same characteristics of the natural snow

6) There are many different styles of exiting the gate. Herman Mayer was famous for its explosive exit; others prefers a less aggressive exit. How is yours?

Well, I am convinced that the start must be strong and efficient at the same time. I try and I train hard to be even more energetic than what I am now at the starting gate, but I think other athletes are better than me in this…. might be a DNA factor.

7) Who does train on the Neveplast ski slope besides you?

Many of my teammates do train on Neveplast ski slope; also kids of Obersaxen ski clubs and local youth teams. The most crowded period is from May to September. The concept is highly appreciated by everyone.

8)In the last few years you decided to focus on fast disciplines. Pius told me that it took you about 500 times of starts on the ramp Neveplast to significantly improve your starting procedure.

Yes, since I decided to focus on Downhill and Super G the start has been a priority. I got a lot better that the beginning of my career, especially on the flat starts.

9) I know you are very sensitive about the diffusion of the skiing culture theme especially among the children. Do you think Neveplast, by taking the snow in the cities all year around, could be a good tool to get more people closer to the ski world?

I very think so. Everything that can take as many people as possible closer to the ski sport is worth of attention. The whole ski sport is not going through an easy time. Every years there are less skiers on the mountains. So, if Neveplast takes the snow in the cities and makes it accessible to everyone learning to skiing everywhere and in an easy way by improving the movements, well that is great! The ski slopes Neveplast are ideal to learn how to skiing especially for children and beginners. I like the mission of Neveplast that has propagated an easier, more affordable and more fun to learn how to skiing.

10) Congratulations for your little daughter Ellie, born in September 2019.The impression is that when one becomes parent, priorities and aims changes. For many athletes the bless of a child correspond also to a sort of “agonistic awakening”. You too! This year you were great. Any target for the next season?

Well, the feelings I had last season were right. I will start from there but I intend to be more resolute. To reach the goal, I must put big efforts in the athletic preparation during this summer.

11) What’s your option regarding the decision to cancel the finals of Cortina because of the health emergency?

I am convinced that sport must step back for everyone’s good. Cancelling the finals of Cortina was the right thing to do. Now we all look forward to the world championships of 2021!

12) Going back to when you were a kid living in Obersaxen and skied with the ski club. How important was having a couch like Pius Berni?

Pius was my first coach when I was a kid and he is still a mentor to me. It is an honour relying on a passionate and professional coach like him. Also, he is a very nice person.

Camilla Ronchi