In this interview with ProXCSkiing, Sandra Schützová, Vltava Fund Ski Team, shares her thoughts about her career, development of long-distance skiing and tells us her goals on long-distance racing.
You have a solid performance in the Visma Ski Classics events, especially with your 17th position at Vasaloppet. Were you expecting such a good performance already this season?
“I did not know what to expect. For me, the long-distance races are a new experience, not only regarding the distance, which I was not used to, but also a new experience with refreshment on the way, which is crucial for this type of competition. This is the kind of experience I could not gain in traditional skiing. The 17th position in Vasaloppet is a great achievement for me. I was secretly hoping for the top 15, but it’s tough to set your goal while you do not know at all what to expect. Therefore, I am very happy for this position, and I believe that in the upcoming years I will improve even more.”
How did you train for Vasaloppet? And how do you balance training for traditional and long-distance cross-country skiing?
“This year, I was still preparing for the competitions in cross-country skiing as I wanted to get nominated for Olympic Games. I changed my training in the second half of January after the long-distance race La Diagonela. So, I would say I started to compete in long-distance races almost without specific preparation.”
“Every race is like preparation for the next one. I am also getting used to double poling training, and I hope that with a focus on long-distance races, I will be able to improve my performance even more. I am very much looking forward to it.”
You will race some of the upcoming Visma Ski Classics events. What are the strengths and weaknesses of long-distance skiing compared to traditional skiing?
“Yes, I still have three races until the end of the season. I would say that the fan support is bigger in long-distance races, which is nice. It is a big motivation for me when you see all the engaged fans along the way. And I would say that also for the supporters/fans it is more motivating when they can be at the start line together with the professional skiers. Another advantage I see is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and no politics.”
As a Rollerski World Cup Winner, what is the importance of rollerskiing to you? Could it be the way to make cross-country skiing more popular?
“I think that cross-country skiing has a long tradition and history and that the rollerskis cannot surpass the traditional cross-country skiing. Nevertheless, I think that rollerskiing is getting more and more popular, and the interest of elite and recreational skiers is also increasing. The same applies to cross-country skiing in general. Especially during the covid times, the popularity of cross-country skiing increased rapidly and attracted people who were not interested in cross-country at all before.”
What is your opinion about cross-country skiing in the Czech Republic?
“I would say that cross-country skiing as a hobby is very popular in general. During covid times, people found an alternative for downhill skiing either in ski mountaineering or cross-country skiing. I live in the highest mountains of the Czech Republic, so I had all the skiing options very close to me.”
“Nevertheless, cross-country skiing is a very demanding sport, and it could be for many people a bit demotivating at the beginning. But I could imagine how to show that cross-country skiing is not only about suffering in the tracks. In the future, I would like to focus on teaching people how to ski and allow them to learn something new about cross-country skiing. For example, Birken race in Norway was born from a historical event. I am always fascinated by the historical events or facts connected to cross-country skiing.”
“Next week there will be a movie in the Czech Republic cinemas about a story back in 1913, when a skier named Bohumil Hanc (who was also originally from the same town as me), together with his friend Vaclav Vrbata, tragically died in one of the biggest competitions in the mountains. Overall, I think that other initiatives could attract more people, not only skiing itself.”
Finally, what are your ambitions for your future as a Pro Tour skier and after your athlete career?
“From this spring, I would like to jump into long-distance skiing completely. I do not know precisely how long, but I still want to train and compete. I am welcoming this change, and it is, for me, a big motivation.”
“After the end of my career, I would like to keep related to cross-country skiing and try to bring more people into it. Cross-country skiing is my life, and I would like to share it with other fans of this beautiful sport.”