The following are some excerpts from a Marco Albarello interview in a recent Norwegian Skisport (#7, 2005).
Marco Albarello (45) was World Champion in 1987 (Oberstdorf), Olympic silver medalist in 1992 (Albertville) and Olympic relay Champion in 1994 (Lillehammer).
– At the moment we don’t feel any pressure. We achieved results last year and our impression from our training camps is that we are getting better. We can’t afford setbacks since we don’t have many skiers to choose from, but ask me one month before the Olympics–that’s when I think we’ll feel the pressure to perform on the home course.
The mentality is a hinderance
– The interest for cross country skiing in Italy increased a little following Italy’s first ever cross country gold in 1987, but the mentality doesn’t have room for this sport. It’s mostly about soccer. We need to get a mentality change. The most important are good results, but the media talks about bad results for months and the good results are forgotten in a week.
First Pragelato — then the future
– The Italian ski Federation is working toward developing schools for talented alpine, ski jumping and cross country skiers. They are spread across Northern Italy and are aimed towards 14-18-year olds. Albarello hopes that this will increase the interest for the sport.
– The long distance race Marcialonga is a positive thing for us, but it’s not easy to recruit skiers to races. We have to take one step at a time, market ourselves as an alternative to the easy sports (soccer, basketball and volleyball). I hope we will be noticed at the Olympics. My goal goes beyond what’s going to happen in Pragelato. The development can’t stop there and I’m feeling a responsibility towards this that’s as big as being a national team coach, says Marco Albarello.
The Italian Advantage
How big of an advantage do Italian skiers have because of all the nearby/easy access to Italian glaciers like Stelvio and Val Senales which you can ski at all summer and fall as often as you want to?
-It’s an advantage considering the fact that the Olympics is at 1800-meter in Pragelato. Most of our skiers live and train at an altitude of 1000-1500 meter. But we have to be careful when we are training higher than that. We have understood the importance of hard training lately, and that has to happen at low elevation. We have no advantage when we compete in Val di Fiemme or in Scandinavia. This is when we can take advantage of being located where we are, says Albarello.
This year’s first camp was in Stelvio at 3300 meter in May (12 days), and then it was an 18 day long camp in Park City, Utah in June. Ten days after getting home it was Val Senales followed by Ramsau, Austria in September. Then another camp in Stelvio followed by Val Senales (October).
Not easier to win
– We get faster acclimated before altitude races, but it’s still just as hard to win. We are trying to reach the podium. It’s important for us to capture medals, but we are aware that only a few of our skiers are good enough to win.
The Italian women’s team only has four skiers. That means that all four need to be in shape for the relay. A fifth skier, Calder has gotten heart problems and has stopped training.
He has two new skiers on the men’s team; Moriggl and Clara.
How he views some of them: di Centa and Valbusa are focusing on the 15-kilometer classic at the Olympics, Zorzi is always good to have and Cottrer is aiming for the 50-k skate race. We also want to fight for the relay gold, says Albarello with a smile.
Albarello was known as a classic skier and fought against skating, but feels good about today’s distribution between classic and skating. He would however like to see all sprint races changed to skating.