The 27-year-old Preuss ended the season with a rekindled confidence and trained well this summer much of the time at home in Ruhpolding in anticipation of her ninth BMW IBU World Cup season. After a day sharpening up for Oestersund on early snow at the Chiemgau Arena, she reflected on last season, relays, her new blue rifle and goals for the upcoming Olympic season.
Biathlonworld: How satisfying was it to end the season third in the World Cup Total Score? Was that your goal? Franziska Preuss: I was really satisfied after the season. My main goal was to stay healthy for all the season and I was very happy about that. At the end, I was especially happy to end up third in the Total Score. It meant a lot to me.
BW: It was a long road to that third place, was it maybe longer than you expected? FP: Yes, when I came into the World Cup, I was 19. The first two years were really good and then I started to struggle a little bit with my health. I had a lot of challenges to manage. But I learned a lot about myself in that time. Maybe I really did not want to learn in this way, but because of that, I appreciated last year. Being healthy, consistent, and making good races.
BW: Did you maybe go to the World Cup too early? FP: Maybe, because it was just my fourth year in biathlon. I started biathlon very late, so maybe it was too much, too fast.
BW: Last year was the most consistent of year, besides health, what else helped make you so consistent? FP: Training was good. I changed back to my old trainer the summer before. He knows me well and I know him well. This was an important step for me. I tried to follow all of the experience I gained in the past years. There were a lot of important steps; the whole package was good, but I was still angry at times about that one last shot!
BW: Running anchor in the relay, you had some great results, do you like that pressure in the last leg? FP: I do not think it was pressure. It was a new experience to be the final leg; I wanted to show myself that I was a fighter. Simon (Schempp) gave me some good tips about how to handle this position; to stay focused but not be too stressed. It was a good mix of everything.
BW: How come you shot so well in relays (just two spares in four relays) and not so well in some other competitions? FP: I really do not know. If I knew that answer, I would do it in every race! Maybe in relays, I am more just in the moment. I just watch what the other girls are doing and then try do as well as they do. There is not much thinking, just like in the mass start. Waiting for the tag, I just look at what the other teams are doing, focus on that moment, and go.
BW: Was it pretty cool to win that relay medal in Pokljuka medal after being so close and missing medals in the sprint, pursuit, individual and mass start? FP: Very cool, especially after all the other races when a lot of times, I was so close. You are always hearing from other people, ‘where is the medal?’ So, when we won it, we were all very happy and a little surprised, especially after the first half of the race wasn’t so good for us.
BW: Speaking of the pressure from the media to win a medal, does that sometimes drive you crazy? FP: Especially last year, it was hard to handle because you only had biathlon, no family friends. You were in the same biathlon bubble and it was biathlon 24/7. It was really hard to get away from it. One day before the relay, I went to our chefs and asked to help them in the kitchen, to just do something normal that was not biathlon. It was very good, Then I had new energy and mental power. It was very important to do something different from biathlon. And my job (with a big laugh) …I was the clean-up person!
BW: The mass start seems to be your favorite event, what makes it so special for you? FP: It is like the relay; you are always in the moment. Once you are on the track, everyone wants to be in first, so you have to defend your position and you just think about what is going on in this moment. That is good for me; that mental clarity when you do not have to think so much.
BW: What did you learn about yourself last season? FP: Last season, the most important thing was that I could trust myself; that I am also a good athlete. In the previous years when you are struggling so often, then you ask yourself many times, ‘Am I good athlete or good enough?’ I thought about this a lot and visualized (doing well), then I got in a good flow, stayed healthy and got my self-confidence back. I lost that earlier before because my body was not working, so it was good to get that back.
BW: Were you happy to see your friend Lisa Theresa Hauser have such a good season last year? FP: I was very happy for her and have big respect for her performances; Pokljuka was really great. It was not only one race; it was every race. One of the highlights for me was watching her teammates trainers and everyone celebrate, everyone was smiling, so nice to see; just so happy for her. My next goal is to win a medal with her!
BW: Standing shooting was a struggle last season, is that why you got a a new rifle stock? FP: I think last year was a mental problem, always asking yourself, ‘is today a good day at the shooting range or not?” Then you get in a negative flow that is very hard to get out of. So, it was important for me to make a new stock; for the mind and new fresh vibes. I am very happy that I did it. In Oberhof, Sandro Breislinger did the wood and Clement Jacquelin made the standing grip piece which was new for me. I am very happy with the combination. Now I feel confident; my training performance is very good, but we will see how it all works in the pressure of competition.
BW: Thinking about Beijing, did you do anything special training-wise? FP: Honestly, I did not do anything special. I think Beijing will be surprising for everyone. I am not a big fan of altitude; my body does not like it so much. I stayed home in Ruhpolding and enjoyed being there, but I did train in Antholz, a place I really like for 10 days. I think when you are in good shape, you are in good shape. I am not a fan of doing experiments in such an important season.
BW: What is the key to a successful new season? FP: I want to stay healthy again which is important for everyone. Then I hope to manage it well at the shooting range, better than last year. I do not want to be angry about myself and that one shot. I hope my track performances will be good. I want to be in the top six in the World Cup Total Score but it is so hard because there are so many strong opponents. You are not allowed to have any big problems when you are trying to be up there.
BW: If you had your choice, which would you rather have an Olympic medal of any kind or win the Total Score? Or both? FP: The best thing would be to have both! Honestly for me, the World Cup Total Score counts more because there you see the performance from November to March. For me, as an athlete, that counts more. But for regular people, it is the Olympic medal.
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Franziska Preuss