Switzerland

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  • Date: 2/19/2014

“Preserve traditions, make way for evolution!” 

Interview with: Tanja Frieden, Olympic snowboard cross champion

The Winter Olympics are in full swing in Sochi. What emotions do you feel while watching them?

Tanja Frieden: Every time an Olympic year comes around, my pulse speeds up just a few more beats the closer we get to the Games. I root for the athletes, especially the ones I work with. Extensive preparation for the ‘big year’, pressure beforehand during the qualifying phase, anticipation of the Games paired with absolute focus – it all blends to form a truly unique cocktail of emotions that still well up to a certain extent. I find the political and social shortcomings to be quite thought-provoking, though, and my hope is that the IOC will sit down after the Games and reevaluate the situation. But for now, all eyes are on the sports and the athletes who have spent years working toward this goal.

How should non-athletes envision the ‘Olympic spirit’?

Tanja Frieden: It’s probably changed a bit from Pierre de Coubertin’s fundamental idea, but the Olympic spirit of joining together for a common purpose and having all nations converge for a peaceful, fair competition is definitely palpable. Olympic spirit also means putting everything you have into reaching your goal and to do so by immersing yourself into a colorful world that consists of thousands of different people and spirits with all of their unique characteristics and learning a lot of lessons that you can apply in your own life.

Many athletes meticulously follow certain rituals before a race. What were your last few minutes before the start like?

Tanja Frieden: Rituals lend you stability and assurance. I had a fixed routine, too, and it began the day before a race. On the day of the race, I started off by ‘greeting’ my snowboards in the service room and then doing a mental walk-through of the day during an easy jog. Before starting, my coach and I always did some reaction drills using a string, I mentally went through the course again and listened to some music to get myself in the best frame of mind for the task ahead of me. But this routine changed a bit depending on whether I was too nervous or felt worn out.

Several different disciplines have been included in the Olympic Games for the first time this year. Are these new disciplines really necessary to keep the Games attractive?

Tanja Frieden: Even the Olympics have to continue evolving. Just like everything in life has to stay in motion. Where would we be if we never provided a platform for new things? The same thing holds true in sports, too. After all, doesn’t attractive contain the word ‘active’? Entirely in keeping with one of my favorite mottos: Preserve traditions, make way for evolution!

What did you look forward to most following your active career as an athlete?

Tanja Frieden: Letting myself spend time just being lazy on occasion. But it took me a while to learn that and I didn’t really find it very satisfying, either. It was worth a try, though!

What was it like for you getting settled into everyday work?

Tanja Frieden: Everyday work, what’s that? My work isn’t really all that different now since in my days as an athlete, not only did I have to train but I also managed myself and my sponsorship commitments on my own through ‘TanjaFrieden GmbH’. I’ve always had different roles to juggle. Now my focus has simply shifted to other goals: Of course at the moment everything clearly revolves around my work as a coach for sports and business which was made possible by a number of training and further education courses I participated in over the past few years. Projects with my sponsors who have become partners are either continuing or developing. My involvement with Qloom, a brand of biking and outdoor products, is also a new addition and gives me an opportunity to contribute my experiences as a multi-sport athlete and lateral thinker.

Looking back, which moments in your career had the biggest impact on you?

Tanja Frieden: It wasn’t one specific event, rather my time in the ‘old’ International Snowboard Federation. I was training in an international team back then and we had to organize ourselves. That helped me gain an awareness of what was really good for me. Living together with people from different cultures taught me an incredible amount about diversity, flexibility and tolerance. My second-place win in the 1999 European championship was another defining moment. That’s when I first started to outline something akin to a corporate identity and became clearly aware of my own values. My Olympic gold medal in 2006 confirmed my belief that tenacity and patience will pay off. Finally, my two torn Achilles tendons showed me once more not only how important a person’s own intuition is but also the ability to let go.
 

Tanja Frieden

 

Olympic snowboard cross champion

 

(Photo ©Säny Blaser)