As reliable as a Swiss watch and as versatile as a Swiss army knife: From sprints to distance races and relays, the talented Swiss junior has dominated the podiums since the first race of the season. She won three medals at the 2020 Youth Olympics in Lausanne (SUI) in January. Six weeks later, she followed suit and took home three medals from the 2020 FIS Junior Nordic World Championships in Oberwiesenthal (GER). Did we mention she’s only 16 years old?
We had a chat with Siri Wigger from Zürich (SUI) after her first season at the FIS junior level. And what a season it was!
Did you expect to win Olympic and World Championship medals in your very first season at the junior level?
“I didn’t expect it, but I was hoping for it. Last year I won the junior category at the Swiss Championships, even though I wasn’t technically old enough to enter those races. I also won the Swiss Cup-races in December, so I knew I could ski fast. But at the Swiss Cup, there are not that many competitors, and I mostly know who they are. At the Youth Olympics and at the World Championships, I was competing against a lot more skiers and skiers from many other countries. When I won the first gold medal in Lausanne, I was really happy. I hoped I could win the next race too, and I was very happy to take another gold medal. I felt like people were expecting me to win medals, so I put a lot of pressure on myself. At the World Championships, I was a little more relaxed. But then I took three medals there too. That was just crazy and it motivates me to train more.”
You were also on the Swiss team that won the gold medal in the relay at the World Championships – did you expect to win the relay?
“Not at all! We hoped for the best and thought that if we were lucky, we could maybe hope to be on the podium. So, when we won the relay, we were totally overwhelmed. It was amazing for the team, because it was the first time in history that Switzerland won a relay at the Junior World Championships. These are girls I have known for a long time, so hopefully we can continue to race relays together and maybe even take medals at the senior level. That would be really cool.”
Related coverage: Medals Galore at the 2020 Youth Olympics
What is your race strategy?
“I usually like to go all out from the start and try to get a gap on the other racers. I try to just focus om myself, but sometimes it’s hard to not get caught up in what the other racers are doing. If I hear from the coaches that others are like five seconds ahead of me or five seconds behind me, I start to worry that maybe they will start to go faster. Then I tell myself that maybe they are getting tired, so just push myself as hard as I can, and keep going.”
When you do sprint races, what is your strategy for the heats?
“Normally, I like to take the leading position from the start, but it depends on how the race is stacked. Sometimes I try to not go so hard in the quarterfinal and the semifinal but just ski fast enough to advance to the next heat. That way, I save some energy for the final. But in the final, it’s always all out.”
How did you get so good – where did it all start?
“Both of my parents are skiers, so both my brother and I grew up skiing. I have skied since I learned to walk, and I love skiing. I can’t decide whether I like skate or classic better, or if I prefer sprint or distance races. I like them all. I just love being outside in nature, skiing on the beautiful tracks. I really love competing and the feeling of pushing myself too, and all the really nice people I meet everywhere through my sport.”
Are you training with a club or a team?
“For the last three years, I’ve been attending a special winter sports school for students who focus on all kinds of ski disciplines: we have alpine skiers, freestyle skiers, snowboarders, cross-country skiers and biathletes here. It’s a boarding school, so I live there during the week and then go home or to races on the weekends. We get to train half of the day and go to school half of the day. That works really well. I am not a part of the Swiss national team because I am too young, but we have a development team with selected juniors from each age category. This team meets about five weeks throughout the year, and it’s really helpful.”
How much do you train in a typical week and throughout the year?
“We do workouts every day except for one rest day. How many hours we train each week depends on the season, where we are in the season and if we are doing a lot of competitions. For the overall year, I log about 620 hours total. In the summer, we do much of the same kind of training as we do in the winter. We run and roller ski, but maybe a little more running than roller skiing. I also like to ride my bike a lot, both road bike and mountain bike. Just like with classic and skate skiing, I can’t decide which I like better; I like them both for different reasons.”
How do you go about strength training?
“Strength training is definitely an important part of our training program, but what we do for strength training varies a lot depending on the season. During the race season, we generally have one session per week of plyometrics, which is all kinds of explosive exercises. In the dryland season, we have cycles where we focus on either general strength in the weight room where the goal is to get stronger overall or endurance strength. Each of the focus periods last a few weeks each. In addition, we do core- and stabilizing strength workouts two or three times per week all through the year. These are short, 20-minute circuit sessions with body weight exercises.”
Related coverage: Winning is no coincidence
What are your favorite workouts?
“I love intervals – all kinds of intervals and hard sessions. I like short, fast intervals and longer, controlled intervals, and I like the way intensity training makes me feel. I like the feeling of pushing myself hard, and I feel that those workouts make me stronger and faster. But I also really love going on longer outings where we ski at an easy pace for several hours.”
Who are some of your role models, and why?
“I have several, for different reasons. Dario Cologna (Swiss World Cup skier with four Olympic gold medals, three World Championship medals and four-time winner of both the overall FIS World Cup and the FIS Tour de Ski) is from my country and just really good year after year, and that’s inspiring. I have also admired Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) since I was a little girl. She used to ski on the same skis as I do, and she’s super-fast and very strong. Stina Nilsson (SWE) is also really fun to watch. I started noticing her a few years ago. She’s amazing. won every sprint and she wasn’t just the winner. She was simply much faster than everyone else. I am sad that she is not doing cross-country anymore but switched to biathlon.”