As he leaves the active Pro Tour scene as an athlete, he reflects on his career, his ambitions as a Pro Team Director, and the state of long-distance skiing in Estonia.
26th at the Jizerská Padesatka in 2019 as his highest Pro Tour result and a prestigious win at home turf at Tartu Maraton in 2021, Põlluste looks back at his career and how he became interested in long-distance skiing.
“In my junior years, I was more focused on becoming a sprinter, but at one point, my coach suggested Ski Classics for me, and I decided to give it a shot. I found my home within a Norwegian team, Team Synnfjell.”
After starting his long-distance career in Team Synnfjell, Põlluste has been an influential actor in building Team Nordic Jobs Worldwide in Estonia, which he skied for and directed the last two seasons. In four years in Ski Classics; beyond results, the Estonian skier cherishes most the experiences, places, and meeting mind-liked people.
“I think from these four years I take with me the most, meeting new people, being able to see the world, and having fun. My biggest moment as an athlete was for sure winning Tartu Maraton in 2021. But I think I feel as proud about running the team and seeing my team achieve great things.”
Now, Põlluste feels very determined to shift his focus from competitive skiing to giving his best to improve his team and raise the interest in long-distance skiing in Estonia. He believes that it takes time to develop long-distance skiing in a small country like Estonia. Still, big events such as Tartu offer an excellent chance for Estonian skiers to compete among the best long-distance skiers. They also attract the public and increase publicity around skiing.
“I think it just takes time for more skiers from Estonia to enter Ski Classics. Having an international competition, where you can compete against the world’s best – you do not get these chances too often. I think we just need to keep pushing the sport and team within Estonia, and the attention will come.”
Tartu Maraton was also an obvious highlight of the season for Team Nordic Jobs Worldwide as an Estonian team.
“Having a Ski Classics race back on our home turf was super. The support we got from people along the course was amazing. This brings much more attention to Ski Classics from Estonia because Tartu Maraton is the biggest winter event. Everyone knows and talks about it. So, I think that for us and long-distance skiing in Estonia, having Tartu Maraton in the Ski Classics calendar is a must,” Põlluste states and hopes that Tartu Maraton will be part of Ski Classics calendar also next year.
Põlluste has been the Pro Team manager of Team Nordic Jobs Worldwide for two years now, and in Season XII, they got more international color as they had few Finns and Swedes in their ranks on the top of the Estonian athletes.
“This season was definitely a new challenge for me as team manager, as we had a group of international skiers, rather than just Estonians. I think we performed well and looking back at, what we accomplished, I cannot complain. Of course, we always strive for more, but there were a lot of good results over this winter, personal bests for almost every skier.”
For the next season, Põlluste has high ambitions for his team. 15th this year in the Pro Team competition, Sofia Lindberg’s 11th place at Prato Piazza Mountain Challenge as the highest result, and many athletes posting personal bests, he aims to be among the top 10 in the team competition in the near future.
“The team aims high, and we want to continue developing with everything – athletes, staff, logistics, training, etc. For us, as a team, we are aiming for the top 10. Time will tell if we achieve this, but we will give it all. The competition is fierce, and the field gets stronger every year, but so are we!”