By Teemu Virtanen
This is the second part of our Weekend Classic article with Øystein Pettersen and his then very strong Team BN Bank. Sadly, the team exists no more, but the team members continue their pursuit of greatness in other teams. Even Mr. Pølsa says that he won’t disappear as there will be some races for him to do next season. Perhaps not that many any more, but he will put his sole focus on the ones he is going to do. Let’s go back in time to the year 2017 and find out what Øystein had in mind when fishing with his family.
Tell me about your team's training philosophy - what are the key elements in performing well in long distance skiing?
“We don’t have a specific training philosophy, but we do believe in hard work. Success does not depend on economy, gear, traveling to nice places or fancy deals. Success depends on being in the right culture and hard work. We believe in hard work. Do today what nobody will, so you can do tomorrow what nobody can. I am not the most talented skier out there, but I am truly one of the hardest working bastards you will ever come across. That goes for my teammates as well. So, if we succeed, it is not by luck.”
Your team is also known for keeping up a good sense of humor - is that a way to remind us that we should never lose that side of life? That being said, is skiing sometimes getting too serious?
“We believe that good results should come with a smile on our faces. The better the mood is, the easier it is to do the hard work. Don’t misjudge us as clowns only because we are smiling and are social. And as you say, this is our only life, live it in the best possible way and get as much out of it as you can. Skiing is only dead serious when you do the actual skiing, not before or after!”
You are also an innovator and you have a lot of great ideas on how to improve our beloved sport - what do you think we should do to expand the scope and reach of our sport (besides getting celebrities involved)?
“That’s a good and difficult question. I truly love cross-country skiing and I hope that it will expand. We have a lot of challenges to overcome, none of them are impossible to solve. For the Visma Ski Classics part, I think we should concentrate on making every race on the tour a classic one. We need to build legends and stories that people can attach to. We need to introduce long distance skiing to a crowd that is not traditionally interested in skiing, but in other aspects of the sport. Look at Tour de France. One half of it is a bike race, the other is the show. There is an enormous economic potential in Visma Ski Classics. Just think about it; who is buying all the sports gear? The participants in Vasaloppet, Birken and so forth. Who needs accommodation, food, entertainment and services in those race locations? The same people. The list goes on and on. We just need to focus on making our own tour as big as possible by protecting and building up our assets”.
Long distance skiing is a unique sport because it combines the elite and amateur approaches, much like marathon running, and offers an experience and challenge tailor-made for each participant - from a professional point of view, what attracted you to the sport and what do you get out of it? What is the magic of long distance skiing?
“Yes, this is truly the magic of the sport, and this is why we need to provide our tour with classic events and true legends. We need to come up with a tour that people really want to participate in, something that people are always looking forward to seeing and taking part in. There are not many sports where a "normal guy on the street" can race on the same track or course, on the same day, in the same conditions as the professionals. But that’s exactly what we have in Visma Ski Classics!”
What is your take on the new FIS regulations and their attempt to hinder the development of double poling? Do you think that double-poling will be the prominent way of classic skiing in the future (also in the World Cup)?
“FIS can do whatever they want, and the rules are there for everyone to obey. Personally, I am an advocate for development. I love cross-country skiing, and I love diagonal striding as much as I love double poling. I think that cross-country skiing has bigger obstacles than the pole length, such as poor snow conditions, the low number of athletes in important nations like Germany, France, Poland and Italy. But hey, I can double pole with short poles if that’s what they want. No problem – bring it on!”
Speaking of those challenges, how is the future of cross-country skiing looking like in the midst of poor winters and pressure coming from other sports (young and talented people are selecting easier options than endurance sport)?
“I hope it is bright, but it has to overcome some of those challenges I mentioned earlier. Endurance sports are beautiful in many ways, but the one thing I love the most is that it is fair. The one that puts in his or her best effort relentlessly will be awarded. That’s the beauty of it to me.”
If the hotdog as the main course in this week’s menu tasted delicious, I am happy to let you know that there is more to come in the form of some sweet dessert. Now, you will get to know the man behind “the ski mask” and how sweet and tender he is – and that is a compliment! Good job Öystein – you are indeed an inspiration to us all and you speak the truth. Anyone reading this interview can easily detect that there is really more to this man than his joke-cracking demeanor reveals. I am cheering for you and may the Gods of Nordic Skiing be on your and your team’s side
What is your favorite workout and the least pleasurable one? What about your favorite Visma Ski Classics event and why?
I love to work on my weaknesses, so intervals going uphill are my favorite workouts. In terms of my favorite races, I love Vasaloppet, Birken, Marcialonga and Jizerka Padesatka because of the atmosphere and the status of those events, what they represent to me. Those are the four classics in Visma Ski Classics.
Who were your idols when growing up?
I had many idols, but I have to say my parents. They still are. I also have to mention my beautiful wife and my teammates. They inspire me everyday and keep me pushing on.
What hobbies do you have besides skiing (fishing)?
I have to say family. Doing sport is nothing compared to them, and I cherish my time with the most precious people in my life.
Name three most important things in your life?
Family, hard work and love.
If you had the almighty power to change the world, what would you do?
Tell everyone that they could be anything they want if they just put in the effort. Also, I would tell everyone to start treating each other with respect and dignity. That would make the world a better place for all of us!