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You Never Forget a Piste Like This

Carlo Janka won the Lauberhorn downhill race in 2010 and still remembers every millisecond of the experience. A chat about childhood dreams, thigh burns and feelings of nostalgia.

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What makes the races in Wengen so unique? The magnificent mountain scenery. There is nothing like it anywhere else on the World Cup circuit, and all competing athletes rave about it. Then there is the train ride to the starting line, which has a distinctively nostalgic charm. Last but not least: is the audience, which contributes to creating a fantastic atmosphere.

Listening to you, you almost seem to be still able to race down the slopes at Lauberhorn, even after your retirement. Precisely! You never forget such a slope; it is deeply imprinted in my memory.

What have been the biggest challenges for you on the piste? There are two. First of all, the passage from Hundschopf, including the Kernen-S segment. It is very technical; nothing works here without good timing. The finish S part also demands everything from you, and on top of that, your legs get exhausted.

How high does victory at the Lauberhorn downhill races rank on your list of successes? Winning this downhill race in front of a home crowd is something every skier dreams about. When I won in Wengen in 2010, I was only 23 years old – and of course, suitably overwhelmed. To this day, the success at Lauberhorn has lost none of its enormous significance for me.

Were you aware of how incredibly well you were performing back in 2010? Back then, I managed to ride exceptionally well due to favourable conditions of what is called compression in our sport. If a racer rides at high speed from a steep slope into a flat section or a counter slope, the centrifugal force ensures that the athlete is pushed downwards with great force. Under the conditions, at the time, it was clear to me that there was a lot in it for me. But in skiing, whether it’s enough to win always depends on the competition. So you can only really be sure at the very end.

The Lauberhorn downhill race takes about 2:30 minutes. When do the legs start to hurt – when does the so-called skier’s ʻthigh-burnʼ kick in? You have to push extra hard through the Hundschopf/Kernen-S passage, knowing that the finishing line is still a fair bit away.

What did you eat the night before and in the morning before such a demanding race? In the evening you don’t have to pay too much attention to the food choice. In the morning – at least in the later stages of my career – I always had my own muesli with me.

What was it like when you were a child watching the races at Lauberhorn on television? Bernhard Russi’s tracking shots fascinated me. I thought to myself: I want to ski down there too! And fortunately, that’s how it turned out and became a reality.

Do you still remember your very first race on the Lauberhorn? That must have been when I was 15 or 16. Years later, when I returned to Wengen as a World Cup skier, I was already quite well prepared for this challenge. And, of course, the Hundschopf section had taught me to be very respectful of the race.

Words Alex Kühn

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