After winning her first World Championship title in alpine combined in her home country of Switzerland at St. Moritz in 2017 and an additional silver medal in slalom, Wendy Holdener competed in her second winter Olympic Games this past season in PyeongChang, South Korea. The past season might have been the most successful she has had in her young career. The 2017 Swiss female athlete of the year won in a complete set of medals in PyeongChang with a gold in the team event, silver in the slalom, and bronze in the alpine combined. In addition, she won the World Cup crystal globe for alpine combined, a World Cup race, and 10 additional podiums.
Holdener took some well-deserved vacation time following this incredible season and hopped on the phone with Ski Racing Media to share her perspective on the past season, the training for the upcoming year, and the tough path to becoming a world cup skier.
SRM: First of all, congratulations for your outstanding season. How would you describe the past season? For us watching you on television it seemed quite easy going for you. What was your personal highlight?
WH: Thanks for your congratulations. Of course, my past season was great, but it wasn’t as easy as it might have looked. After the races in Killington, I did not finish the slalom and the giant slalom wasn’t great either. I really was struggling mentally; I wasn’t able to handle the pressure. Also the mental rehabilitation process after these races was difficult. It took me all of December to readjust and therefore was really happy that January turned out so good and that I could build my confidence during that month so I was perfectly ready for the Olympic Games in PyeongChang. Overall, the end the season was awesome; it just fit perfectly that I was in my best shape right at the Olympic Games, which have been for sure the highlight of the season. I felt good in South Korea even though the pressure was up again.
SRM: What do you think was your secret this winter that made you so strong? Did you prepare differently last summer?
WH: Good question, I don’t know. I was able to develop myself and my skiing. I worked hard on certain things about myself and some technical aspects; also with the team, we’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing ski videos.
SRM: As the last season is history, what have you been doing since? Did you go for a vacation?
WH: I did not go for a full vacation trip. I was with friends for four days in Italy and recently for four days in New York. I tried to use these short trips to let go, but my schedule did not allow a bigger trip and none of my friends were able to come with me for a longer period. I mostly stayed at home and tried to catch up with friends and take care of things that I did not have time for during the winter.
SRM: I guess the preparation for the next winter has already started. How is it going and what are you currently training?
WH: Partially yes, we have been in Mallorca, Spain, for a week-and-a-half with the team where we spend a lot of time on cardio with a lot of road cycling. Afterwards, I was in New York where I gave myself some rest and now I’m back home following my strength and conditioning plan until the end of June. We have one more week of vacation at the end of this block.
SRM: When restarting training, athletes often look for new motivation and new goals. What goals are left for you after the last two years? What are you going for next season?
WH: I definitely have goals. In general, I have goals in each individual area — goals for my skiing technique, goals with the development or the setup of my equipment and so on. But mostly I just like to improve. If I am able to improve myself and show this during the races next winter, I am sure this will translate into good results. I believe that I have not yet reached my personal maximum. I don’t like to say I want this or that title, I like to give and show my best but not in a way that the public and the media hold me accountable on goals that I might have announced.
SRM: When you have some free time, what do you enjoy doing the most?
WH: I enjoy reading or watching Netflix. When we are training a lot and on the road, I like to have time to relax and lay down. I also enjoy going swimming with friends.
SRM: What is the hardest part of training for you to get done? Why?
WH: Sometimes I have a hard time to motivate myself to do intervals, but then on the other hand it is highly motivational because I know this workout will last an hour and then I am done. As with any other job, sometimes you are not motivated; one day I might not be up for a leg workout, the next time I don’t want to do core. Overall, I enjoy the summer training.
SRM: When and where will you be back on snow?
WH: Currently I plan to return to snow in August with a week of skiing in Saas Fee. I will go to Ushuaia, Argentina, for a long camp of about three-and-a-half weeks shortly after. I like to go there for preparation because I can focus completely on skiing and there are usually good conditions.
SRM: Who was your skiing idol when you were younger?
WH: I was a big fan of Dider Cuche. I thought he was awesome, in particular as a person and the impression I had of him lasted when I entered the World Cup scene.
SRM: You have become an idol for many kids yourself by now. What advice would you give them?
WH: My advice to the kids would be simply to have fun skiing. Regardless of what you do in life you should do it with passion. I know that not everyone will make it to the top in skiing but I hope everyone will collect amazing experiences and memories. Those who will end up doing something else in life actually have a great opportunity to learn for a later life and to build their character with the sport of skiing. So just enjoy!
SRM: Did your parents help you during your career? If so, how? What advice would you give parents of ski racing kids?
WH: Interesting question, maybe you should ask my parents instead of me! Nevertheless, I think parents should support their kids without praising their children too much or being too hard and pushy. I think all that they should teach them and maybe ask for is to give their best. At the end of the day, a result shouldn’t matter at all if your kid did their best that day.
SRM: What has been the most meaningful moment of your career so far and why? Is this moment also the most important one for you as a private person?
WH: Hmmmm… My medals and my victories are of course important moments, but having been named Swiss female athlete of the year 2017 was a very special moment that meant a lot to me and helped me during this time of mental struggle after Killington. At the same time I am also very happy and thankful to have a great team around me that supports me. They have all been there for about 5 years now and we have such a great atmosphere. Of course, this is just skiing, but at the moment these accomplishments do mean a lot to me and I love that I am able to share them with my family and friends. After all, skiing is a huge part of my life right now.