František Lejsek ended his career in ski jumping at the age of 21, as another member of the national team. In February, Filip Sakala, last year’s former junior world champion Viktor Polášek, wrapped it up. “Everything is bad,” Luděk Matura, a former jumper, coach and official, says bluntly in an interview for Aktuálně.cz. He discusses the state of the once successful sport in the Czech Republic and the latest changes in its leadership.
Lejsek, Sakala, Polášek, Čestmír Kožíšek or Vojtěch Štursa also ended their careers in the recent past. Why? What is your view?
There are more of those guys and it’s a huge shame. Someone took care of them for at least twelve or thirteen years, it cost the units something. On the other hand, our boys do not have preparation comparable to the world at junior age, so it is not surprising that they have a hard time getting among the top. Then the guys have a bad performance and see only hopelessness, no perspective.
Do you think they see no way out and hope for improvement?
It’s about a performance perspective. Those guys aren’t idiots after all. They train, train and then end up in the “second division” Continental Cup between 40th and 50th place. It can last for example from 18 to 23 years, but if it doesn’t lead to anything? They don’t even earn as much money as a football player in the regional championship. They are actually amateurs, Dukla gives them equipment, they go to races in a minibus with state money, but that cannot be compared to the training of Poles, Slovenians, Austrians, Norwegians or Germans.
It is safe to say that even if the experienced Roman Koudelka, who will be 34 years old in July, also retires, can the Czechs close it straight away in the World Cup?
I’m thinking about what’s next. Roman had the best performances last time with coach David Jiroutek in the 2018/19 season, when he finished fifth at the Tour of Four Bridges. That’s why I would see a way for Jiroutek to become “friendly”, whether David trains the Italians or the Finns. He knows well what shortcomings Roman has. I don’t believe that anyone else will start Roman to jump to 30th place.
Jiroutka was dismissed from the show jumping section of the Czech Federation in January 2020. Should he go train the Finns now?
At the end of last season, he coached the French and then moved to the Italians, who I think must have been happy with him. At the end of the season, there was already talk of him being one of the candidates to coach the Finnish national team. Both of these teams are better off than the Czech jumpers and would probably agree to such a possibility. Roman could train with them. If it were up to me, I would pursue it.
Two years ago, the Slovenian coach Vasja Bajc took over the national team, but he did not succeed. Did you believe the vision with him?
I believed him, but the connection failed. Roman didn’t have the best words about him. In the style of saying hi to him, but he probably wouldn’t go to coffee with him. I don’t know what happened in the team, unfortunately the results were not good at all. The training model in Planica turned out to be completely wrong, the boys kept going to the same place and were fed up with the bridge. The World Championship was held in Planica, but our national team didn’t do anything there.
In the past World Cup season, Koudelka took 68th place with 11 points, Radek Rýdl scored only one point. A Turk, a Ukrainian or an Estonian was better…
Yes, it’s all bad. Youth head coach František Vaculík even declared during the season on the skoky.net website that “nothing works here at all”. If he dares to write this on the Internet from his position, it must really be Kocourkov with three exclamation points.
The aforementioned Filip Sakala and another former jumper Vít Háček are now entering this environment. After Jakub Janda and Radek Cikla, he will lead the jumps section as chairman, Sakala seeks the post of sports director. What do you think?
It’s good that young guys are getting involved. I know what the job entails, and I say that only a young person who does not accept failure can enter it. The boys will soon hit hard and find out that with the money that is in the union, the Czech jump can be maintained, not improved. Money is woefully short, it is not for quality preparation. With the youth, parents have to emphasize it, Dukla has to stick it. But I support the boys, they are full of energy and determination to change anything. Although they have one drawback.
Like Janda, they go into it from racing experience. They don’t have a coaching education, they haven’t trained anyone, they’ve never led a club. But these are things that can be overcome with enthusiasm and enthusiasm. It may happen that they will be able to achieve 50 percent of the set goals and things will go forward.
Sakala said that he sees poor communication between the national team and the clubs as a big problem. Are Czech jumps humanly split?
It needs to be managed clearly and directively. If someone did not want to respect the order of the section council, the national team coach or the youth head coach, they should say goodbye to such a person. But I don’t know exactly what the problem is, no one in particular was ever mentioned who would blame it there. The jumps are in such a state that everyone should pull together.
How do you like the intended trip with foreign coaches?
I don’t like this. Was Richard Schallert or Bajc here, it didn’t work. I think there are still enough Czech coaches. Traveling with foreign coaches seems pointless to me also because no one from abroad will work here for 60 thousand crowns gross. There is no money for it, it is a utopia. The guys in the leadership should spend some time defending, work well with the youth. Don’t promise results for next season, rather focus on a five-year horizon.
The basis will continue to work on the restoration of Czech bridges, right? Without them, the next generation will be brought up hard.
It is clear. In winter, one complete area should work, the K120 bridge in Liberec or Harrachov should also be ready for me. Smaller bridges work there, but it would like to be completely restored so that the national team can train there in peace. Go jumping to Wisla, Zakopane or Klingenthal? These are significant complications. Restoring the home environment must be the basis.
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