In the last two parts (Part 1 | Part 2) of our series about RAW AIR we gave you an insight into Vibeke Linn’s, Head of Social Media and Walter Hofer’s opinion. You have also got to know what the Czech physiotherapist Veronika Pankova and Killian Peier think. Today we had the chance to talk to Andreas Alamommo, Andraz Pograjc, Joacim Oedegaard Bjoereng, Kevin Bickner and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes about RAW AIR.
Andreas Alamommo – „It is difficult for every athlete because each jump must be good.“
Finnish youngster Andreas Alamommo, who participated for the first time in the Summer Grand Prix this season, thinks that RAW AIR sounds well prepared and that it could get many spectators in the upcoming winter and also during the next years.
About the new scoring system, he told us that „it is difficult for every athlete because each jump must be good“ and that „you cannot skip qualification if you want to win the whole tournament.“
The whole tournament with ten days of competition means that there will be little time to regenerate. Alamommo said that there are many competitions in the World Cup and that it is already a long season before the start of RAW AIR. „Some can be tired of travelling and competing during winter but every athlete will give 100% like in every competition. Also in spectacular Planica at the last competitions before the holiday everyone shows their best“, he added.
About the comparison of RAW AIR and the 4-Hills-Tournament Andreas thinks that the legendary 4-Hills-Tournament has been taken place already 64 times and that RAW AIR might not gain this popularity in the first years but that we will have to wait what the next seasons will bring.
Andraz Pograjc – „It will not be just a competition.“
From the Slovenian team, we spoke to Andraz Pograjc, who took some time and gave us his opinion about the competition series in Norway: „RAW AIR is a really good idea. It won’t be just a competition. I think it is more interesting for spectators and also for us.“ Furthermore, the 25-years-old said that the new scoring system is a good idea because you have to give your best in each jump and that it will make the competitions more equal for all competitors.
For Pograjc who has already been on top of the podium with his team during the Ski Flying competition in Planica in 2013, more competitions are better than less even though he thinks it is hard to say how ten competitions in a row will affect the health of the athletes.
In regard to the planned transportation, he is sceptic. „I think that the transportation is not suitable or friendly for us for that kind of competitions series“, he explained to us but also added that everything except this seems to be good.
Like Alamommo, Andraz Pograjc thinks that RAW AIR will not become as important as the 4-Hills-Tournament since the later has a historical tradition and also takes place to celebrate the New Year, which makes it even more special.
Joacim Oedegaard Bjoereng – „RAW AIR will really show who is the best at the end.“
Since RAW AIR is going to take place in Norway the opinion of a Norwegian athlete cannot be ignored. Youngster Joacim Oedegaard Bjoereng who started during the Summer Grand Prix this summer and who also showed some good results in the Continental Cup competitions, talked to us about this tournament.
„I think it is going to be a pretty hard tournament that really wants to show that the best man will win! And of course, it is really exciting that it will take place in Norway and I hope it will be super popular here!“, told Bjoereng.
He continues to explain that in his opinion it is going to be taken good care of the athletes during the ten days of competitions. He thinks that „if someone will fall out of the battle for the overall ranking because they are tired and their health, they should have been better prepared because RAW AIR will really show who is the best at the end.“
Joacim said that the time will show if the tournament has been too hard for the athletes after it is over but he also pointed out that the organisers work hard to create something new. „They have worked out something really cool here to hopefully make the sport even more popular and especially to make the Norwegian people open their eyes more for ski jumping“, explained Bjoereng and added, „I think that is just awesome.“
We also spoke to two athletes of the North American team, American Kevin Bickner and Canadian Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes. Both of them showed outstanding performances this summer so that we are already looking forward to their participation in this event.
Kevin Bickner – „With extreme sports, you have to see how far the limits can be pushed.“
Kevin Bickner, who achieved Top 10 results during this year’s Grand Prix in Einsiedeln and Hakuba, is already excited when it comes to RAW AIR. „I think it is a cool new concept. I am excited to see how it will turn out with constant competition. I am always up for switching the traditional schedule around and trying something new,“ Bickner told us.
That he is up for trying new things shows also that he thinks the new scoring system is interesting. He continued that the planned system will take away a little advantage that the Top 10 has with being prequalified. But there are not only advantages he sees: „I am not sure how I feel about the team events counting towards the overall score of the event. Being part of a team that rarely takes place in team events, I feel as though I am at a disadvantage. So unless there was a rule where other athletes could compete but only count towards the RAW AIR standings I think that part is a little unfair and catering towards bigger nations.“
Since team events are not an issue only during RAW AIR we think it might be time to talk with Walter Hofer about the possibility of a North American team, which coach Bine Norcic already mentioned earlier this season.
When it comes to the constant competing and travelling during this series, Kevin Bickner does not think that the lack of regeneration time will be dangerous for the health of the athletes. He sees the risk of athletes burning out nevertheless which makes the event cool in his opinion. „It is an endurance event, something ski jumpers rarely see. I think we will see the performance of some jumpers suffer, and others stand out. There will be some very interesting results near the end at Vikersund“, he explained in addition.
Also in regard to the upcoming ski flying competitions in Planica straight after Vikersund Bickner is positive. He loves the idea that there will be back to back ski flying weekends and told us that a lot of athletes will already be adjusted to flying. That is why he thinks there will be a lot of far jumps in Planica. However, Bickner also pointed out that recovery will be something to worry about. As a reason, he stated: „Most athletes are going to want to train hard for the World Cup final, but they also have to give their bodies enough time to recover from ten straight days of jumping.“
Since the Norwegian TV NRK plays a big role in RAW AIR there is always the risk that it was only created for the media without considering what is best for the athletes. Kevin Bickner thinks that the media is the biggest contributor to the creation of RAW AIR, as well, but that does not bother him.
„It is something new and the creators were trying to think outside the box. Ski Jumping is an extreme sport, and sometimes with extreme sports, you have to see how far the limits can be pushed.“
With a series of competitions on four hills, it is normal to compare RAW AIR with the 4-Hills-Tournament and its success. For Bickner the reason for the importance of the 4-Hills-Tournament is the fact that it is such an old tradition that made it a prestigious event to win. Regarding RAW AIR he thinks that we will have to wait a few years to see what kind of feedback it will get.
Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes – „Many new and interesting competitions keep everyone’s motivation and energy level high.“
We are happy we managed to get some insight from Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes as well. The Canadian has been part of the World Cup since 2009 and showed a strong performance in the summer. He finished sixth in the SGP final in Klingenthal and landed on the podium at the COC in Stams.
„It is exciting for me, and really pretty good to bring attention to the sport in any way possible“, Boyd-Clowes stated and continued, „For the athletes, I think as many new and interesting competitions to look forward to throughout the season keeps everyone’s motivation and energy level high.“
The new scoring system will first and foremost make RAW AIR fun to watch while athletes are trying to have a good jump every time. Boyd-Clowes explained that the most added pressure will be on two or three top athletes who are battling for the victory.
Competing during RAW AIR means a lot of days of hard work in a row, but this is also the job of the athletes. „I do not think you will hear any of the athletes complaining about jumping four great hills in Norway with a ski flying doubleheader at the end of the season. It sounds great“, Mackenzie commented on ten days of competition before he added, „mind you, talk to me again in March.“ This we will surely do!
According to Boyd-Clowes‘ opinion, it does not really matter if RAW AIR was only created for the media or what the intentions were in creating it because it is going to be a lot of fun for the athletes as well as the fans. There will be enough time to rest after the season.
In comparison to the 4-Hills-Tournament RAW AIR is „a fresh, exciting concept and people will be really interested in it.“ But about the 4-Hills-Tournament Mackenzie added: „The 4-Hills-Tournament has been around for over 60 years. So to compete with the prestige of that tournament is almost impossible.“
In only a few days the World Cup season 2016/17 will start in Kuusamo (FIN). With this series of articles, we gave you a look behind the scenes of RAW AIR which will take place as another highlight of the season besides the World Championships in Lahti in February. We hope you enjoyed it and you will join us this season for more news and insights into the World and Continental Cup!
Carolin Erbe | Dolores Lazič