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Snow queen

  • 2002-08-29
  • Stefano Triolo
Kristina Schmigun, Estonia's 24-year-old skiing star, is among the most beloved public figures in the Baltic country. Stefano Triolo caught up with her as she began to consider the coming skiing season.

Schmigun made her mark on the international cross-country skiing scene when she picked up silver medals at the Junior World Championships in 1995 and 1996, achievements that earned her enduring affection from her fellow Estonians who were eager to taste international sporting success as a newly independent nation.

Since those days, Schmigun is one of the most recognizable people in Estonia, and while Olympic medals have so far eluded her, she's confident that her day will come.

How did you get started in skiing?

My mom and my dad were skiers and so my childhood was a constant sporting life. I was always following my parents around the world for their competitions.

I started my training as a skier when I was 8 and my first trainer on the youth team was Herbert Abel. He was a very important person for me in that period of my life. Unfortunately, I think today there aren't so many enthusiastic trainers anymore.

What kind of relationship do you have with your parents today? Did they help you develop as an athlete?

My parents gave me everything, they gave their life for me and my sister to become skiers.

When I won my first World Cup stage in Nove Mesto, I gave all the prize money - 100,000 kroons (6,200 euros) to my father. He is my coach right now, and my mother is everywhere doing everything. She cooks for us and when we have some problems we can talk with her and she always has good advice for us.

What kind of relations do you have with your younger sister Katrin? During a ski competition, do you consider her just another rival?

My sister is a very good person and she is also my best friend, but anyway during a competition she is a rival to beat and not my sister. And of course she tries to beat me, too.

After three brilliant seasons in the Junior Class (1995-97), you started your first season in the Top Class of skiers with a serious injury that even compromised your participation in the Olympic Games in Nagano. How disappointed were you at that time?

In 1998 I missed almost the whole season because of a broken collar-bone. It was a very hard period for me because I also missed a lot of the Olympic Games, but I learned a lot during this time and I understood exactly what sport and competition mean to me.

Anyway it was a positive, if difficult, time in my life because I could stop and think of everything.

In 1999, when you took third in Otepaa and first in Nove Mesto, was that the first time in your life that you realized you were one of the top female cross-country skiers in the world?

Yes, it was. I was really very happy and very relaxed in those days and usually I love this feeling because I don't like big pressure.

Earlier this year, you were falsely accused of doping just days before the start of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. What was your reaction to that?

It was a terrible time for me and that week when I took my B test, it was the longest week in my life. The accusation of doping was for substance 19-norandrosteron that was found after an A urine sample taken at a competition in Italy the previous December.

After the B test, I wanted thank God and everyone who didn't abandon me in these difficult times. In those days I put my hand on a Bible many, many times and said: I am absolutely clean. It was true.

You competed in the Winter Games at Lillehammer, Nagano and Salt Lake City. The first Olympics, you were inexperienced, the second you had the injury and the third you were hit with the doping accusation. Is it just bad luck when it comes to you and the Olympics?

Yes, I start thinking that there is something wrong with me during the Olympic Games because every time I participated, I had a problem and something happened. But now, after three times, I think something will change for sure.

What are your goals for next season ?

Next year, there will be the World Championship, that is a very important event, but also for me it is important to take part in the World Cup starting in November and finishing in March. I absolutely want to improve my fourth place finish from the last World Cup.

When was the happiest moment in your life? And the saddest one?

I don't have a particular happiest moment in my life because I am generally happy. I do what I want to do, what I love to do. That's all.

Sad moments were probably all three Olympic Games because at each, I would have liked to have done better than I did.

Do you have any other interest during your free time apart from skiing?

Really, I don't have much free time. I like traveling and for example, last spring, I went to Philadelphia and I learned English during months of vacation.

Also I like to read, especially some good Estonian books.

What do you think you'll do when your career is over? Would you like to be a trainer for young Estonian skiers or do you have different plans?

Actually, after my career, I would like to improve my education and then find a good job, but I don't want to be a trainer for sure, it's too hard for me.

Who has been most important to your career?

First of all, I have to say thank you to my parents because without them, I couldn't do what I do now. My sister, my sponsors and all my fans who support me all the time wherever I am, thank you to them, too.