We met with the most northern folk of Baltics at the beginning of December, during the annual training camp in Äkäslompolo, Finland. As already a tradition, the team stayed there for two weeks to build up a good foundation for the upcoming winter. To get an insight into the soul of the Estonian Ski-O Team, we had a chat with the athletes. Youth, junior and elite athletes took part in the open conversation.
Facing this team, with a shadow of Estonian Ski-O result history in our mind – we got immediately the impression: this team does not match with the antique, dust-covered wood we framed it.
Many athletes present here are even far younger than the remaining results we will point out in our graphics.
This meeting here lightens the dusk in this Finnish cabin on a December afternoon into bright light. This generation has fire. This generation is here to stand for who they are. Proud and brave to represent the best version of themself which they can work out of themself as a team.
And it lets us really look forward to meeting with them and the whole world’s best ski orienteers in Kääriku at the season’s highlight at the end of February.
Background story about the result history of Estonian Ski-O Team
While Estonian men’s team has participated consistently in World championships since the restoration of the indipendence of the country, with the best athlete performing between the level of top10 to top20, another picture can be seen on the women’s side. From 1992 to 1998, a strong women’s team showed consistent results within top10 of the world’s best, followed by a disappearance of a women’s team. From 2000 to 2011, Estonian women participated in World championships only twice – in 2004 and 2005, with one athlete who was performing outside of the top30. Since 2013, a new generation has grown and is climbing back to the level of the 1990s.
For men and women, Estonian Ski-O Team best individual World champs’ results date back to 1990s:
Women: 3rd place Maret Vaher in classic distance (1994 in Italy)
Men: 7th place Ormar Lutsberg in classic distance (1992 in France)
A rise of a new generation has brought the best results in relays and European championships:
World championships relay: 3rd place Epp Paalberg, Doris Kudre, Daisy Kudre (2017 in Russia)
Women: 3rd place Daisy Kudre in middle distance (2020 in Russia)
Men: 5th place Mattis Jaama in sprint (2017 in Finland)
Sprint relay: 3rd place Daisy Kudre, Mattis Jaama (2020 in Russia)
One World cup stage victory: Daisy Kudre (2020 in Sweden)
Inside Estonian Ski-O Team
What do you like about your team?
– Team atmosphere and a strong team vibe. We find it really nice that youth and adults are training and traveling together: youngsters can learn a lot from the elite and at the same time help to create a nice and fun atmosphere.
The response of young athletes to this question leaves no wonder open. They appreciate that all team members need to take responsibility in this team. Older athletes are role models here. It starts with being the driver of one of the Estonian cars when the caravan hits the roads heading to camps and competitions. Or cooking and serving the meals in the camp. The effort they put in when playing out on the tracks. Or with social events taking place every evening in training camps. Each of them brings its creativity and inspiration to the working action as a team.
-We also like our coach who is joking a lot and lets us be free and chill but is also concrete and professional during important trainings.
-The team camps have been very fun and it’s really nice to go to competitions and especially championships together as a team – the focus is not only on racing well but there is so much fun team activity.
-But it’s important to mention that the good team vibe doesn’t happen by itself – we as athletes put ourselves effort and time to improve that. There is a lot of self-initiation in our team – for example, we take the responsibility to be active in social media. We don’t just expect somebody to do things for us – if we want something, we have learned to do it by ourselves!
As this team lets no doubt about that they know who they are, we want to challenge them with a more difficult question:
What can you improve the most as a team?
-We are quite good in showing that we have a lot of fun as a team but maybe we could improve the side of showing that we are also actually working hard and at least in our opinion, quite professionally.
-So maybe that means that we should improve our self-confidence?
World champs in Estonia. How do you feel now – a bit more than two months before World champs?
-Excited but for sure also a bit nervous. But we are very strong as a team and our preparation has been really good! We are really motivated to perform well as a team.
-Many of us have been racing at international championships at home (JWSOC 2014 and/or WUSOC 2018) and we have already experience that it’s really fun to race on home ground.“
An interesting controversy shaped during the conversation:
Youngsters: It’s a bit sad, though, that we can not travel anywhere.
Elite: So nice that we don’t need to travel! Such a cheap trip! =D
How would you like to be seen as a team at World champs in Estonia?
Athlete 1 : We would like to be seen as a cool team.
Athlete 2: Strong and self-confident
Athlete 3: Hmm… rather strong than cool. But if we happen not to be strong, then we could at least be cool.
A common statment sums up:
– Jokes aside, we are going to be supportive to each other and keep up our great team vibe. To show also to the others that we like what we are doing.
– Right now, we are on the #roadtokääriku which we really enjoy as a team. However, we also believe to have a great destination for this road. So that both – the process and destination – would be memorable and good.
What do you think this team has that no other team has?
- Rakvere meat balls and porridge cookies
- I don’t know… I have never been to any other team
- So fun social activities we do every evening in training camps
- We have some really great enthusiasts/fans of the team who have been leading ski-orienteering in Estonia for many, many years and offered great training opportunities even in very bad conditions. We appreciate really much that the organizers in Estonia are putting very much effort to organize trainings and races for us – competitions in bad conditions are still much better than no competitions!
- It’s so nice that really each and every athlete is putting some effort for the team work. Everyone carries the spirit to work and agree to take responsibility.
It appears that it’s not just by happening that in the currently challenging situation it is Estonia who is going to run against every odds and organizes championships for our small but enthusiastic ski orienteering world.
They deserve to make this selfless effort and incredibly difficult work happen as a remarkable event that will be remembered for its good!
As appriciation and respect is high within this team, we dear to ask about the man who handles the sails on this boat and sails them with full wind destination future
Describe your coach Kuno with one sentence.
–He is very versatile and balanced: rich in humor but also professional in his work; a good chef and also a good wax man; and he is very caring!
As the hard-working coach followed his versatile role, he wasn’t present during our chat with the athletes. That gives us the chance to play the ball to him.
Kuno, please describe the Estonian Ski-O Team in one sentence
-Estonian Ski-O team is very united and can cook very well!
Do you as a coach have some main idea you try to bring to the team?
-Athletes should go to the competition with a positive attitude. If an athlete has a great mood, big things can happen!
What do you appreciate the most in your team?
-It’s really nice that so many athletes have taken part in team camps this year – I really appreciate it and it’s nice to see that so many athletes are motivated before World champs in Estonia.
–I also find it nice that the mental side of our athletes is on a good level – and it is really important when preparing for the World champs on home ground.
What else is left to be said is a big thanks to the whole Estonian orienteering community to give our world emotions to look forward to!
We, SkiOinside, wish you all: organizers, athletes, coaches, federation, and volunteers to remember yourself as the bold kinds who have overcome every challenge no other even dared to attend.
Keep up the positive attitude: “big things happen with a great mood!“ and speaking about: „if we want something, we have learned to do it by ourselves!“ – so it is with self-confidence! You all have worked hard and well – believe in it! This is where self-confidence comes from.