By Teemu Virtanen
As the summer season closes in, our Pro Team Athletes start their intensive fall training leaving long workout days behind.
Heli Heiskanen, the best Finnish female athlete in Visma Ski Classics, has been spending a lot of hours on roller-skis, running in forests and mountain biking in Northern Finland.
She started her summer training later than usual since the winter lasted longer than she expected. She was able to ski throughout May in Posio, her hometown, after which she took a short break to ease things up a bit.
“I’m very meticulous about my training,” Heli says adamantly while finishing up a two-week training camp in Levi. “I have a good coach, Jarmo Riski, and I know how to maintain the right level of intensity. There are no female skiers around in my neighborhood who can double-pole long distances, which means that I’m used to training with men. My husband Esa Mursu, who is an accomplished athlete and one of the best long distance skiers in Finland, often accompanies me in my workouts. Naturally, the intensity grows when the fall season begins, but I have already trained hard on increasing my threshold levels. To be able to tolerate the unpleasant feeling of pain when going fast. Additionally, I’ve done a lot of natural strength training focusing on double-poling on steep hills.”
Heli acknowledges that the world is very different from the early months of this year when the race season was on, but she points out that we need to stay positive; the situation is the same for everyone and the sun will rise again tomorrow as it has always done. For two years, she represented Vltava Fund Ski Team from the Czech Republic, and she had an option to continue, but the pandemic changed her plans. A surprise call from another Czech Pro Team offered her a new opportunity.
“Our service guy from my previous team started working for Slavia Pojistovna Sport Team, and he told them about me. Then, they contacted me and offered me a job in the team. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, but of course, it’s sad to leave my old team behind. I only have good things to say about them. The owner of the new team Pavel Sehnal is a passionate skier himself and he loves the sport, and I now have the same service person as Stanislav Řezáč. Of course, I’m a bit nervous about transferring to a new team, and the communication will be somewhat challenging. I speak a bit German, but I only know a few Czech words after being in Vltava Fund Ski Team.”
Heli thinks that overall it should not be that difficult for her to start in a new team as she is already familiar with the Czech culture and their way of life. She is keen on learning a lot from Řezáč, who is one the Legends of Visma Ski Classics.
Heli Heiskanen together with her new teammate Stanislav Řezáč.
“He is a really nice guy, and he also wanted me to be on the team. I’m so excited about getting to know him even better and gaining some useful tips that can help me in my skiing career. What I like about the Czech people is that they are always very positive, they don’t get mad that easily and they take their time to resolve things if need be. I want to surround myself with those kinds of people and have a positive atmosphere.”
Heli admits that her life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Particularly when things don’t work out the way they are supposed to. That’s what happened to her last season as she wasn’t able to get the best possible performance out of her. She was in good shape, and even Tord Asle Gjerdalen sympathized with her by saying that she has a capacity for better results. Heli finished 12th in the Hertz Champion competition, and her best races of the season were Jizerska 50 and Vasaloppet, where she finished 8th and 10th, respectively.
“I had a lot of stress and some personal challenges,” Heli shed some light on her poor performance level last winter. “I felt that I was much better than my results, but I just couldn’t find the power I needed for success. I’m a perfectionist, and it was really hard for me to realize that I was far away from my potential. But now, I have a new team, I have trained well, I’m confident and I feel that I will be able to raise the bar next winter. I keep smiling and focusing on my training. I aim to be among the top six skiers in most races, but I know that it’s not an easy task as there are more talented young skiers stepping into the arena, and the old ones are not giving up either. Vasaloppet will be my main race, but I just need to be much faster on the first climb. I also like Jizerska 50 a great deal because of the course profile. I’m privileged to be a part of Visma Ski Classics, and I really enjoy the Pro Tour with all the perks.”