Guiding a visually impaired skier requires concentration, sharing a strong bond with your athlete and good mental and physical condition, according to guides Arvid Nelson of Norway, Ivanov Volodymyr of Ukraine and Martin Hartl of Germany.
As they devote the official training day (13 February) to prepare for the next events at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany, all three guides explained what is needed to be successful in their job.
A close relationship
“A close relationship with the athlete is fundamental to understand your skier´s mind,” said Nelson, who guides Paralympic mixed relay bronze medallist Eirik Bye.
So far they have competed in the men´s cross-country sprint visually impaired in Finsterau, reaching the semi-finals.
“Knowing each other helps learn more about the other. I would know how he thinks and he would know how I think. When we get really close, we get good races. That is a big part of guiding,” said Nelson, who met Bye at high school.
“We are friends the whole time, I do not feel like his guide. I do not consider this a job because I do it because I want it.
“We want to win medals together and we will continue putting a lot of effort.”
Training, ski preparation and directions
Ukraine´s Ivanov Volodymyr has been a guide for a long time. But it was two years ago that he started working with Olga Prylutska. Together they made history in Finsterau as they stormed to gold in the women´s biathlon middle distance visually impaired.
They also finished fourth in the cross-country sprint.
“It is hard work to be a guide. You need to train a lot with your athlete. Also prepare the skis to have successful competitions,” said Volodymyr.
“The good guide should know the course well, and orient the athlete properly, tell him when to go fast, when to go slower and when to turn right or left”
Trust, fitness and quick decision making
Germany´s Clara Klug, guided by Martin Hartl, won bronze in the women´s biathlon middle distance visually impaired at Finsterau 2017. But they hope to add some more medals to their haul, with four races to go until the end of the World Championships.
“Prylutska in biathlon and Austria´s Carina Edlinger in cross-country are very strong. Maybe we can win silver in Finsterau,” said Hartl.
“In order to do that, we need to trust each other. That is the most important thing in a relationship between a skier and the guide.
“A guide should be in good shape. You are the skier´s eyes. You need to be constantly paying attention to the course and the rivals. You have to see everyone and everything and make decisions really fast.”
Competition resumes in Finsterau on Tuesday (14 February) with the Individual biathlon.
Live results and coverage from the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships are available at Finsterau2017.com.
Right free pictures for editorial use are available for download at www.flickr.com/photos/paralympic/.
Broadcast quality race footage will also available on request by contacting [email protected].
The competition can also be followed on Facebook.com/ParaNordic, Twitter and Instagram (@ParaNordic).