Simon Eder: Forging on at 39

Nine days before the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games opened, Simon Eder won the IBU Junior 15 km Individual World Championship title, hitting 19-of-20 targets. At age 39, he is embarking on another season, still shooting close to 90% and seeking his 17th consecutive season with at least one BMW IBU World Cup podium. After a hard 3-week training block, the highly motivated Austrian has an easy week scheduled in mid-July, marking the half-way point of summer training.

BW: Four years ago, Beijing was your goal; Beijing is over and you are still here?

SE: Quitting is not so easy. Everyone has a different motivation. Dominik Landertinger’s goal was to quit with a World Championships medal; that worked great for him. It is not always a goal like the podium that marks the right time. I really want to move on and compete in the World Cup. My father raced until 41and would be racing today if he could. When I was young, I thought I would celebrate 40 in a nice mountain chalet with my wife, drinking some good whiskey; now I think it will be in Oberhof! The closer I come to the end of my career, the more I see the value in it. I really want to race and train one or two more years. I have a job that I really love; that is the most important thing.

BW: Ten years ago, did you expect to be training for a new biathlon season in 2022?

SE: Ten years ago, yes; 5 years earlier, maybe not. I was having a bad time, thinking I would finish my career at a young age. For two years, I was really tired and could not train, but I missed the sport. That is, maybe why I am still here. I started racing at age six, competing in Austrian Championships which seemed like the World Cup. After 33 years, I still like it and want to stay in the sport after I leave, as a trainer, wax tech or something.

BW: What is the key to staying competitive at 39?

SE: Health is most important. Some years I was sick; even a small sickness can change your winter and results.

BW: You and Jakov Fak are the “last men standing” from Ridnaun 2002, did you think back then that biathlon would become such a passion?

SE: In 2002, I saw my future in the eyes of a child, not realistic, never expecting to have problems. My goal was to be Junior World Champion. I did that. The next years were difficult. In 2002, I thought I might win the Total Score in the future, but realized it was not so easy. Step-by step, I changed my goals to making the World Cup first, worked hard to do that, and then a relay medal because an individual medal was unrealistic. We had really good teams 2008 to 2010, winning Olympic and World Championships’ Relay Silver medals.

BW: Sixteen consecutive seasons on the podium in either an individual event, relay or single mixed; is that a surprise?

SE: I did not know that. Now there is big pressure for next season! It is always a big goal and motivation to do this. I know so many athletes that work just as hard and never made the podium once. It is a big privilege. We had those great years with the men’s relay when we thought third place was not so good. A few years later in Ruhpolding Landi got us third place, our only podium that year. I gave that picture to my mom because I knew then the podium was special. The single mixed has been a key to that streak.

BW: As you get older, have you adjusted your training to stay both healthy and competitive?

SE: I never did a lot of volume, maybe that is why I am not so fast. I know the amount of training my body can handle. I try to do between 600 and 700 hours and do a lot of quality training. Last season, I did 37 races so there is no place for training in the season. For me it is more important to have quality training than 800 hours. It is important that after each training block that you take a good rest week and are ready for the next training weeks. What you do in the rest week is not that important.

BW: You had a pretty good season last year, 15th in the Total Score, some top tens, 7th in the OWG Mass Start, was that pretty satisfying?

SE: I was really happy. It is a lot about your expectations, not those from the outside. That is maybe the most important lesson I have learned in my career. When the expectations from the outside are so high, you do not listen to yourself anymore. I told my daughter before Beijing that I wanted a top 10. After the relay (10th), she said, ‘Dad you did it!’ all I could think was how cold I was and how slow we were! But I was really happy with 7th in the mass start; your goals have to be realistic.

BW: Is it hard balancing family life and sports as you get older?

SE: My family sees and knows how much passion and how much (biathlon) means to me; they make it possible. Sometimes when I have trained hard, I think I am not the best father, do not feel like playing but want to rest. I think I will enjoy this after I retire after not doing 20+ hour training week. I have had my best seasons since I became a father, so this added something to my life. Time management is very important when you have a family. Having my dad as a coach is a real privilege. He is always there. I could not have a better situation.

BW: New season, new goals or the same goals?

SE: Ricco Gross said that when you make your goals public, instead of keeping to yourself, they become more difficult. My big goal is another podium in an individual race before I retire. It is still possible, but I have to shoot zero. Top 10 individual results and relay podiums are goals too; the biggest chances are in the single mixed relay; a good mix between big goals and being realistic.

Photos: IBU Christian Manzoni, Evgeny Tumashov, Jerry Kokesh

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