By Teemu Virtanen
Germany has been a devote cross-country ski nation with much success in the past, and the country’s new generation of skiers is hoping to reclaim the glory days of Axel Teichmann, Tobias Angerer and Jens Filbrich. One of those skiers is 31-year-old Thomas Bing, who aims to shine at the upcoming Olympics, but he also has an unprecedented goal for a German athlete as he aims to win Vasaloppet next winter.
He certainly has the chops to do it as he finished 11th in the king of ski races last winter, and he could have been even closer to the top without a fall at the end of the race. His result became the best German achievement at Vasaloppet in modern times taking the mantle from Thomas Freimuth who managed to be 17thin 2010. If we look further back in history, we can find Gert-Dietmar Klause who won the race in 1975, but he represented the DDR, and Jochen Behle who finished fourth in 2000.
Bing has represented his country at two Olympics and three World Championships. His best individual Olympic result is 11th in the 30 km skiathlon in 2018, and at the World Championships, he has finished a bit north of 40 in every distance.
Only time will tell if Thomas Bing can be the king on the ski tracks from Sälen to Mora. Pro XC Skiing interviewed the skier who has been training in Muonio, Finland, and found out that this humble German athlete is full of passion and determination that could make his dream come true.
When and how did you find skiing?
At the age of six, my parents decided that I needed a sport activity. They didn’t think of any professional sports at that time. Skiing seemed to be a good way to spend my energy, and it seemed like I had a lot of it. I had fun, and my parents’ stress level decreased. This was the beginning of a gradual journey to the National Team.
How has your training proceeded since the end of the winter?
Directly after the winter, I had another surgery on my leg. Some screws and stuff needed to be taken out of my leg. But I still had some problems in the summer. Unfortunately, I had to customize my training accordingly. I cycled more and did more double-poling than usually. A nice side effect for Vasaloppet but not ideal for the Word Cup races. Last month, the problems disappeared, and I have been able to train well. I had a good final preparation for the upcoming Word Cup races.
What is your training philosophy?
I train until my arms run out of juice and become completely empty!
You are aiming to win Vasaloppet and you have a special project around it. How did it come about?
To win Vasaloppet is a dream of mine and not a promise. The long-distance ski scene is very strong, and there are many specialists with absolutely impressive performance capacities. So, it would be presumptuous to claim that I will win the Vasaloppet, but I can try my best!
You did the race last winter and finished 11th. How was the experience and what did you learn from it?
Last winter, we only had Pro Teams racing at Vasaloppet. However, it was amazing to compete there. I can't imagine the feeling of a “normal” Vasaloppet event. I learned a lot about the bigger teams and their tactics, the importance of provisions and the neuralgic points in the race.
What specific training sessions have you undertaken to improve your chances to win the race? How about your double-poling - do you feel that you are up there with the best of the Visma Ski Classics athletes?
Because I had a broken leg, I focused a lot on my double-poling. Nearly 50 % of my special training was upper-body training. I absolutely know it's not the same amount as for the Pro Team athletes, but I hope my overall capacity is good enough to compete with these strong guys.
You are also aiming to do well at the Olympics. What are your goals for the games, and how are you preparing yourself to achieve them?
That’s right. This year, my main focus is, for sure, on the Olympics. This year, I started with high altitude training. I hope this will give me a big bonus and the possibility to qualify for the Olympics.
How can you combine these ambitious goals as they require different skillsets (to do well at standard distances at the Olympics and to win Vasaloppet)?
When I’m feeling that my legs are running out of power, I’ll fill up my training workload with double-poling. Running is a bit of a problem sometimes, so I do more double-poling. It’s much more fun and easier with the Vasaloppet goal in my head.
Since Vasaloppet is one of your goals next winter, have you ever considered a career in long distance skiing in the future?
Maybe yes, maybe no. At this moment, my focus is on this upcoming season. I can just say that I have much fun in skiing long distance races.
Germany was one of the great cross-country skiing nations a while back, what is the situation right now and how does the future look like?
Everyone in the Ski Federation is working hard and performing 100%. Our goal is to get good results for Germany. To accomplish this goal, I work on increasing my own power.
Finally, a quick word about yourself? What hobbies do you have, what about family and is there a motto you go by?
I like climbing. My girlfriend also loves sports, which makes our holiday plans very easy. She also wants to start skiing in a Pro Team this year. My motto is that every day inside is a lost day. And it goes to life in general, not just training.