Ski mountaineering: Interview with Austrian champion Jakob Hermann

| All about Sports

Get to know Austria’s national ski mountaineering champion in his exclusive interview with Martini Sportswear!

About perfectionism, good food and the love of nature

At 14, he was Austria’s youngest paragliding pilot. During his teenage years, he started competing in ski races. At 19, he took part in his first ski mountaineering competition. Today, he is multiple national ski mountaineering champion – and he’s not done yet! We’re talking about Jakob Hermann, top athlete on the Austrian ski mountaineering national team.

How did the talented all-rounder start ski mountaineering? “When I was 13 years old and on a full-moon tour with my parents.” Jakob has always been extremely ambitious. Instead of only one career goal, he has set his eyes on three: a world championship medal, an individual World Cup victory and first place at Pierra Menta, one of the most famous ski mountaineering races of the Alps.

In our exclusive interview, the 33-year-old ÖSV athlete talks about the ups and downs of his career, about his training, his spare time and his private life.

Photo Credits: Maurizio Torri

His current career: “Baking & cooking are my mental training”.

What was your biggest success in 2020?

My first place and track record at Mountain Attack in Saalbach-Hinterglemm.

What’s your goal for this season?

After my elbow fracture on 11 November 2020, my first goal is to start training again and get fit for the World Championships and the World Cup by late January or early February. My goal would be a podium place at the World Cup.

NB: First goal accomplished! On 16 January 2021, Jakob Hermann won the individual category of the Austrian national championships in Praxmar, successfully defending his national championship title. Check out the latest news and results of the ÖSV ski mountaineers ...

For how long did you have to interrupt your training?

Three weeks without any exercise. After that, I could start with moderate, short training sessions.

Are there other areas of training you could focus on, for instance, mental training?

There’s always baking and cooking, that’s my mental training! 

What was the biggest success of your career so far? And what was your biggest setback?

My biggest success was the “near” victory at Pierra Menta with Kilian Jornet. As for my biggest setback, I fortunately didn’t have any major ones yet. What used to be a little bit of a problem was my perfectionism when it came to nutrition and training. I simply wanted too much after my second and third place in the 2017 World Cup and thought I could achieve more with even harder training and an even more balanced diet. Looking back, it was a learning process, as my plan didn’t work out. Quite the contrary: My perfectionism even led to the opposite effect.

Martini Sportswear: “The race suit is my favourite piece of clothing.”

What characteristics does a professional race suit have? Is it comfortable to wear?

It’s comfortably tight. There’s nothing worse than a race suit that’s too big and that makes every step uncomfortable.

What fascinates you about the product development of a race suit?

For me, the race suit still isn’t 100 per cent perfect, because I’m a perfectionist and always have new ideas. But so far, I’d say the most exciting part was to find the perfect fit and pocket placement. 

What’s your favourite piece from the current Martini Sportswear collection?

The race suit – because of its excellent fit.

Why would you recommend Martini Sportswear to others?

Because it’s an Austrian brand.

Photo Credits: Philipp Reiter, Bernhard Hörtnagl

Sports and competitions: “Nature, freedom, passion”

Who is your biggest idol?

Kilian Jornet. [NB: Catalan ski mountaineer]

What fascinates you about ski mountaineering?

Nature, freedom, passion.

How do you prepare for a competition?

I don’t have that many rituals before a competition anymore. What’s important to me is having a proper meal with plenty of carbohydrates on the evening before the competition. I keep my breakfast quite simple so that my stomach feels good: bread, butter, jam or honey and coffee.  

Right before the race, I decide how long I want to warm up. Usually, it takes about 30 minutes. I usually limit my choice of climbing skins to two on the day before the competition so that I can fully concentrate on the task ahead.

When is the most emotional moment of a competition for you?

Shortly before reaching the goal and crossing the finish line. Thinking back to Mountain Attack, I was close to tears before the last bend.

How do you usually spend the evening after a competition?

When I’m at home, my partner Andrea and I usually cook something together and have a glass of red wine or two. Afterwards, we usually go for a walk on the beautiful winter hiking trails of Werfenweng.

Which race would you really like to win in the future?

The Pierra Menta.

What’s different this season because of corona?

The uncertainty which races will actually take place.

Training: “Preferably out in nature!”

Do you prefer to train on your own or in a team?

I usually train on my own because that makes me more flexible. On beautiful days, when it feels really good, I like to extend my training session and do an extra round.

However, during the past year, I really learned to appreciate training with the team. There are days when you’re tired or the weather is awful and then it’s a lot easier to train in a group.

How do you train during the summer?

I prefer to do long road cycling, running, hiking or hike & fly sessions.

Which kind of training is the hardest for you?

Interval training. These sessions are usually shorter, and I can’t be out in nature.

What does your training look like in times of corona?

For me, nothing much has changed, as elite sports are exempted from the lockdown measures, and I could always train as usual. The only downside was that the cable cars were closed for a long time, which made it harder to get to the glacier and back.

Photo Credits: Jakob Herrmann

Nutrition: “I love baking and cooking.“

What does your nutrition look like?

I love baking and cooking, and I prefer handmade meals.

  • Before training, I usually have a porridge by Verival Bio with apple purée or with berries I picked in summer and put in the freezer. Alternatively, I have home-made bread with butter and jam. And of course, I have a cup of "Werner Kaffeerösterei" coffee in the morning.
  • During training, I eat home-made gingerbread, energy balls or energy bars. I also try to drink enough during winter. During summer, I always have a coffee and cake break during long cycling sessions.
  • After training, I simply cook what I feel like. As I love Italian cuisine, I often cook dishes with polenta, rice, pasta and grilled vegetables. With that, I have olive oil, egg variations, cheese etc. Or a really good goulash. And of course, our legendary "Kaiserschmarren” is always a highlight!

Do you have a nutrition plan?

I don’t really have a plan. I learned that it’s better not to ask myself what would be healthy now but rather: What do I feel like eating? And you can probably imagine that I don’t eat a meatloaf bun or a greasy cordon bleu after training. I’m lucky in that I find it easy to eat healthy.

What types of food do you avoid? And which ones couldn’t you live without?

I’m not really into meat. Occasionally, I enjoy a good goulash, steak tartare or a chicken curry. During family celebrations, I really look forward to a Schnitzel or roast pork. But that’s rather an exception than the rule.

I’m more of a “side dish eater”. I like cereals in all variations, from savoury to sweet. I also wouldn‘t want to do without eggs and dairy products. In Austria, we are blessed with farmers who produce such high-quality products.

I simply try to eat a balanced, varied diet and to listen to my body.

Team: “I’m the team cook.“

Do you all get along?

Yes, definitely. We’re not going stir-crazy or anything. Of course, there’s the occasional disagreement, but not very often. We don’t have any real arguments – quite the contrary: I think that our team works together really well and that we help each other.

Where do you see the team’s strengths?

Everyone has different strengths that can “balance” the weaknesses of others. For instance, Hoffi [NB: XY] is a real waxing pro – something that I have no clue about.

Which role do you have in the team?

Cook. No, joking aside – this question is difficult to answer. I like to organise things, for instance the mealtimes and dishes at hotels.

Who trains the hardest?

Paul Verbnjak.

Jakob Hermann and his private life: “You’re responsible for your own happiness.”

What’s your personal success formula and philosophy of life?

Being happy doesn’t mean to have everything, but to make the best of everything you have. You’re responsible for your own happiness – don’t base it around others!

You’re also a successful paragliding pilot. Which sport do you prefer: paragliding or ski mountaineering?

I’m fortunate to be able to do the most beautiful sport in summer, paragliding. And in winter, it’s ski mountaineering. I couldn’t imagine skiing for twelve months in a row – the variety is what keeps things interesting.

What’s your favourite ski tour in Austria?

In mid-winter, I love the Tennen mountains at home in Werfenweng. In spring (May and June), I prefer the High Tauern mountains. I love to start out on my bike and tackle the summit with my skis.

Thanks for the interview! 

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