City Savvy’s sports reporter, Heledd Pritchard, talks to Luxembourg’s only Winter Olympian, Kari Peters, about his life and success as a cross country skier. After years of hard work he has made it to Sochi and will soon be putting Luxembourg on the Winter Olympics map.
At what age did you start skiing?
I started skiing at the age of 4. But, like for many other kids, that was just during the Christmas holidays. I was doing much more alpine skiing at the age of 11 and after that I began cross country skiing, again for fun, during the winter holidays.
How did the interest come about?
My dad was a kayaker and was practicing cross country skiing as a part of his winter training. At first, my brother, sister and I were doing alpine skiing. Later we started cross country skiing because we changed our holiday destination from the French Alps to a small town called Oberhof in the middle of the “thueringer wald” in eastern Germany. Oberhof is well known for biathlon, cross country skiing and other winter sports. Maybe that’s how I got more involved in the sport and I have to admit that it was inspiring to see the big stars training on the same slopes as us.
Where did you train when you were growing up?
Until the age of 15 I was doing track and field and then, from 16 to 17 years old, triathlons. I only used to do a bit of rollerskiing in November and December, just to have something different in training. I was training in Remich, my home town. Then at the age of 17 I moved to Oberstdorf, a town in the German Alps. There I was living and training at the Olympic center and school for winter sports.
What opportunities are there in Luxembourg for young people interested in the sport?
Actually, we have great opportunities in Luxembourg for kids and teenagers, but the big problem is that most Luxemburgish people have the wrong mentality when it comes to real commitment for the sport. My opinion is that we have as many talents as other countries, but the big part of our community tells the young talents that it’s better for their future to get good degrees, go to college and get a safe job, and that’s why we lose a lot of talents.
Do you think enough is being done to promote the practice of winter sports in Luxembourg?
It’s hard to promote winter sports when you don’t have constant snow. But on the other hand, I really don’t understand why we don’t have more figure skaters, curlers or ice hockey players, because we have the facilities for those sports.
What is your greatest achievement?
I think my biggest achievement is not only that I made it to the Olympics, but also that I can do my passion for a living and be able to travel the world by doing my sport, and grow as a person.
How do you feel about competing at the Winter Olympic Games?
I have to say that it is great to compete at the Olympics, but the biggest joy is that my participation is a way to reward my family for their commitment and help.
I’m not too much of a patriotic person, but to represent a country is always a special thing and you shouldn’t forget where you come from.
How did your training go?
This year went pretty well, I didn’t have any injuries. During spring and summer I trained a lot on my own, as usual. One week per month I was staying in Oberhof, where I trained with a group of German guys. They are world class athletes who have won world cups and Olympic medals and it was very beneficial for me to be able to train with them, especially for fast and hard work outs.
How have your past injuries had an effect on your training?
They had big effects on my progression. During the past four years I have spent about a year and a half with injuries or diseases, like heart inflammation in 2011, where I wasn’t able to train at all for four months.
What response have you had since you found out you will compete at the Winter Olympics?
There was a fantastic response. It’s not that usual for a low land country to have a skier at the Olympics. My friends were happy because they know how hard the last years have been. My family is stoked because it’s a big relief that it is finally done.
What goes through your mind when you’re on your skis?
That depends; when I’m training on my skis, I’m permanently concentrating and there is no time for big thoughts. But during long summer sessions, like when I do my three-hour runs, there is nothing more chilling for your mind. You can reflect of your own life and the world. You can find answers and solutions for all kinds of problems.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an athlete?
Maybe a painter or an actor because I know that I’m not the kind of person who would go for a 9 ‘til 5 job. On the other hand, I’m really interested in entrepreneurship and Wall Street. I enjoy reading biographies about the big ones, like Warren Buffet, Donald Trump and Bill Gates. To some people it may sound strange, but my favourite TV channel is Bloomberg!
And last but not least, do you ever look forward to sunny weather as well?!
For sure, because I prefer summer time to winter! I love training under the sun in hot and humid conditions. It’s funny because my brother, who is a triathlete, likes to race in colder conditions. I spend my free time during spring in warm countries.
The XXII Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony is on Friday 7th February. For the full schedule of events and results please click here.
Feature photo: ekimpix