Head coach Stane »Sten« Baloh and his assistant Primož Peterka are the two men supporting and standing by Slovenian women ski jumpers. Together with the girls they tremble and try to bring them to the level they deserve – the mere top of women’s ski jumping. Both of them have been touched and marked by the last season’s historic event. At the same time, they are enthusiastic about writing a fresh chapter in the book of success of the Slovenian women’s ski jumping team.
How high are the goals of Slovenian women ski jumpers?
Sten: The goals are always set high. However, you have to be careful not to set them too high. Otherwise, that could result in an opposite effect. This year, we would like to achieve similar results as last year. In my opinion, they were very good, and the girls, the Ski Association of Slovenia, and the public thought so as well. I like to be careful when making predictions, so I wouldn’t want to promise anything in advance. However, I can tell you we are working hard to achieve these high-set goals.
Primož: I would like to comment on the Ljubno competition, but the same goes for the season in general. For five years now, I have been a part of this story, each year we have improved and have achieved better results. Last year, we won for the first time in Slovenia and we even had two podium placements in the same competition. I won’t say we can’t do better, but this is very close to the best that can be achieved. We remain close to our goal – making the best jumps we can. Naturally, the plan is to place among the top three in home competitions, even though this looks like a bold idea at the moment. Our goals must remain high and we should focus on that – on all the competitions and not only on the one in Ljubno. But realistically, if everything falls into place, if the conditions are right, if we get just a bit lucky on the right day, all our goals can be achieved.
Last year, the girls fulfilled our wishes and achieved historic podium placements on the renovated ski jump in Ljubno. How do you see last year's competition and the girls winning all those medals? What does that mean to you?
Sten: I think you saw how emotional I was on the ski jump and what that meant to me. I believe no words were needed; I was not embarrassed to show my emotions. When you are so successful at home, in front of the home crowd in Ljubno, that is truly something – how should I put it – special, something one only dares to dream. However, these dreams came true for all of us.
Primož: I will look back on those competitions with pride. This was also the first podium for me as a coach and on top of it all we secured it in Slovenia! The team should also look back on those results with pride, since what we achieved was truly a historic moment –it was the first time ever and it is written in gold letters.The memory of this amazing achievement is filled with emotions. I would like to repeat it as often as possible and not just once in a while. We are working towards this goal. If one season is not as successful, then the next one will surely be.
Sten, all of us who attended or watched the event in Ljubno last year saw your emotional response to the girls' results and also your famous wig – do you still put it on when the girls step on the podium?
Sten: I'm not sure. Maybe I'll put it on often, maybe I'll wear it as a good luck charm, since I've been bringing it to all the races for the third year in a row. Let us wait and see –it will have to be a moment of inspiration or emotions. Be sure – this wig is my companion to all the races. We will see if it appears on my head.
For this season, the girls were also preparing on the larger ski jump in Planica. Are they perhaps ready to take on the big ski flying hill already?
Sten: This is actually the old Bloudek’s big ski jump before the one constructed by Gorišek was built. The girls really love jumping on larger ski jumps, since they give them even more adrenaline rush, they are in the air longer, the air resistance is bigger and the pure enjoyment is even greater if you are jumping farther. How close the girls are to jumping on the big ski flying hill depends on FIS. We just need to wait and see. When FIS allows the girls to jump on the big ski flying hills, I hope that the best among them will jump also on the big hill in Planica.
Primož: This is the first season the girls have two races on a large, 120-metre hill. Even though this is a historic step, we are still miles away from training on larger ski jumps. I feel that more competitions on the larger hill are needed. Not only that, also the number of jumpers who are able to jump on larger ski jumps will need to grow. In complete honesty, at this moment I don't see any sense in girls jumping on the big ski flying hills, regardless how much they want that.
Primož, how are you able to help the girls with your experience, for example on larger ski jumps and with challenges that can only be explained by someone who was once a ski jumper himself?
Primož: Last year, I went to try out a couple of things on the ski jump. Now, as a coach, I tend to look at things a bit differently than when I was an athlete and I received advice from my coaches. I questioned the benefit I would get from that and I thought, “I don't need it, I am different”. Now, I go on the ski jump, try it out for myself and see if something is possible or not. If that ends up being positive or negative depends on every individual, but one can always try out new things.
At the start of this season, the girls needed to gain their self-confidence. How successful were you with this task?
Sten: The final stages of the preparations for this year's season brought us some bad luck with the weather and snow conditions. Thus, we made a last minute decision to go to Lillehammer, Norway, to train on snow. Simply put, all the plans Primož and I had made, crumbled into pieces. We trained well in Norway, but prior to the first competition in the season you can never really be sure about the shape you are in and how good your rivals are. This was clear after the first events, even though the results in trainings were good. Each competition reflects what shape you are in, how you compare to your rivals, but maybe not so much in terms of your technique. From what I saw from the girls in trainings, discussing it with Primož as well, training sessions promised better results than those achieved by the girls in the competitions. Each race gives you that extra motivation and adrenaline rush. It depends on the athletes how they react to that. When you are jumping well, you need to retain the feel for the jump in the race and the result will be good. I trust my girls and I know that they are well able and capable of making it.
Primož: We are working hard and putting our hearts into achieving our goals. I feel that we need only one top result from one of our girls, which would then pull the entire team forward and bring ease to the team not only during the trainings but also during the races, since the girls are already showing what they are capable of doing in training sessions.
Last year's goals for Ljubno were achieved. How high are you flying with your goals this year – maybe as high as never before?
Sten: Of course, hidden wishes always exist – with the girls, the coaches. But since they are hidden, they should remain hidden until Ljubno. If they are revealed, I will confirm that they were fulfilled.
Primož: I would rather say wishes than goals, but I want to keep them private. It is better this way.
What goals do you have regarding fans and visitors in Ljubno?
Sten: I feel that true fans should not be asked to come to Ljubno. They simply come and I hope that the weather conditions will be favourable, since that would mean that Ljubno would be full of fans of women's ski jumping. We will try to show our gratitude with great and long jumps and top results.