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Teresa Stadlober: The Austrian Olympic Medalist

Austria is well-known for presenting a solid field of medal winners at Alpine World Cups but much less for bringing forth successful cross-country skiers. By winning the first Austrian female Olympic medal in history, Teresa Stadlober has become the Austrian hope to change this perception. 

Photo: Matic Klansek/Bildbyrån

Teresa Stadlober (AUT) with her skiathlon bronze medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

At the moment, Stadlober is recovering from a knee injury that she suffered when running downhill after a training session in her home mountains. In an interview for ProXCskiing, we have the chance to get to know this extraordinary talent from the Salzburg area better and hear her thoughts about traditional cross-country skiing compared to biathlon and long-distance as well as her opinion on the newly introduced equal distances for women and men in the FIS World Cup. 

As a daughter of two professional athletes – her mother was a successful Alpine skier and her father a FIS Nordic Ski Championship medalist – Stadlober and her elder brother tried many different sports during childhood. 

“We were registered to many different clubs in different sports. I didn’t start directly with cross-country skiing but first with Alpine skiing with my mom as the instructor.” 

Stadlober did everything that was fun but got stuck with cross-country skiing quite early when all her friends joined the local ski club. Naturally, it went well already during the first races at a young age when she climbed podium after podium all the way up to the bigger Austrian Cup and Continental Cup. 

“During school time, I only saw cross-country skiing as a hobby, and only after I finished school I decided to do it professionally.”

In her career as a professional cross-country skier, Stadlober reached two podiums in 2018 during Tour de Ski and one podium at the World Cup in Oberstdorf in 2020. 

How satisfied are you with your career so far up until the Olympic Games this winter?

“Everything went quite fast for me. I could win a lot in the Continental Cup, and when I started in the World Cup, I was immediately doing well. I could improve my performance continuously, first races without points, then getting points and soon Top 10 results on a regular basis.” 

The World Cup Season 2017/18 was Teresa Stadlober’s best season so far when she came 8th in the overall standing.

“During this season, I had constantly good results spread out all over the season. But then, I would say, my performance started fluctuating more. I had some good results but didn’t manage to find a stable performance level throughout the next seasons.” 

Would you say you could have done something different or better?

“The (doping) scandal in Seefeld in 2018/19 has definitely affected me. It took a lot of energy and, for me personally, a lot of my motivation.”

“Also, the fact that we don’t have a big team of athletes, especially female athletes, that can train together is definitely a disadvantage compared to bigger nations like Sweden, Norway, Russia, or Finland.”

In the Olympic Games 2022, Teresa Stadlober climbed the podium at the 15km skiathlon and took Austria’s very first female Olympic medal.

What does this achievement mean to you?

“It’s crazy. It’s the goal for all athletes to achieve a medal at one of the big events. This was also my goal for many years now. I was close several times at the World Championship in 2017 at the ceremony, had a few Top 10 results at big events, and was very close last year in Oberstdorf. I just never gave up on this dream.”

Stadlober adds that she didn’t count with a medal so early at the beginning of the Olympic Games in Beijing. 

“Because of Covid-19 requirements, my arrival to Beijing was delayed, and I didn’t really have time to adapt to the conditions on-site. It was pure stress to check out and get to know the location, and I was still in deep jetlag when I managed to climb the podium. This day was very emotional.” 

Does this Olympic bronze medal bring back the motivation for the coming years?

“Yes, definitely. The medal pushes extremely. It gave me such an upswing, such a motivation. Also, now I was so excited that the training for the new season started again.” 

How do the preparations for the coming season look like, apart from your forced break due to your current knee injury?

“Beginning of May, I started pretty good into preparations for next season and was already on a training camp in Cyprus where I mostly focused on endurance training with cycling, rollerskiing, running, and strength training. During summer, it’s more intensive with interval training. Right now, it’s a bit difficult for me to think about preparations. I rather make sure that my injury is fully healing so that I can come back strong soon.” 

Which goals do you have for the coming season 2022/23?

“We have a season again with a World Championship, this time in Planica, which is almost even more home world champs than it was in Seefeld as it is much closer to where I live. Of course, I am aiming for medals there.” 

Apart from traditional skiing, there are other sports related to Nordic skiing. It seems to become a trend to move from traditional skiing to biathlon, but Stadlober is not considering hopping on that train at the moment. 

“Classic is my stronger technique, and I have way too many goals that I still want to reach in the World Cup.” 

Have you ever considered competing in a Ski Classics event?

“This is absolutely possible. Especially Vasaloppet is a must for all cross-country skiers, and on my list of races I want to compete one day. I might actually already try it in two years, 2024, when the World Cup season doesn’t include a big event. Marcialonga would also be very interesting. Those big prestigious ones are definitely in the back of my head.” 

Are long distances something that suits you?

“I have to say that I never raced more than 30km, so that it would be a challenge for me. I would have to add this in training plans to be able to be competitive as Ski Classics Pro Team athletes have a certain advantage.” 

As we speak of distances, what do you think about the new rules regarding equal distances in the FIS World Cup?

“For me personally, it is not a disadvantage as I am better on longer distances. A few more 20km competitions suit me well. 50km on Holmenkollen will be tough. But in general, I don’t know if this is such good marketing for cross-country skiing. Especially for women’s competitions, the longer the distances, the longer the gaps. I’m not sure how interesting it is for the TV audience to watch many small groups with big gaps. We will see during winter.” 

Stadlober highlights that longer distances can pose a problem for marketing cross-country skiing in destinations like Austria, where this sport is not as big as in other countries.

“It’s interesting to do a 50km race someday, but for me as coming from Austria, being dependent on Austrian sponsors, Austrian TV to market the sport and myself, I am not sure if the ORF (local public TV channel) will show a 50km women’s race if it takes so much time for us to finish it.” 

Another change in FIS World Cups is the introduction of Mixed Relays. Stadlober expresses that this is especially important for small nations like Austria as it is challenging to set up good relay teams for each gender but possible to get relatively good results in Mixed Relays. 

To sum up, we would like to know who is your biggest role model in the world of cross-country skiing? 

“I don’t have one. None that comes to my mind now. There are many very good skiers out there, and you can learn something from each one of them. It is interesting to see how cross-country skiing will develop.” 

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