VIP Quarantine - biathlon world champion Markéta Davidová: I don’t really miss having fans at the shooting range
Markéta Davidová is twenty-four years old. She has only been racing among the biathlon elite for three years, but after this season she can boast the title of world champion in the endurance race. She tries not to be too stressed by the pressure her fans put her through, but sometimes even Markéta can't help but browse among the bad comments. She does her best to combine biathlon with normal life, which, according to her words, isn’t easy. According to the coaches, the young competitor has yet to achieve her best results, so we can expect great things from Markéta in the future. In an interview for LP-Life.com, she told us what she likes about racing without fans, what rituals she has before the race and how long she expects her biathlon career to be.
How would you rate this season? It was very different from the previous ones due to the pandemic. How did it affect the racing and how much did you miss the fans?
It was different, but in fact, last year's end of the season had already been without fans, so it wasn't so odd anymore. One got used to it. And in fact, I pretty much stopped noticing it. I actually keep saying that I think it will be weird when the fans are watching. I'll have to get used to it again.
Personally, did it bring you less stress at the shooting range, for example? Or does it help you get more worked up on the track when the fans are cheering for you?
On the shooting range, I definitely prefer not to be disturbed. On the other hand, I do miss people on the track. There are a few service folks standing there and that’s all. But I really don’t miss them at the shooting range.
You became the world champion in the endurance race this season. What was on your mind during the last round?
During the last round, I only thought about not falling. I was telling myself I simply had to finish no matter what. But I wasn’t aware of it yet, I had a relatively low starting number, so I rather thought I’d pulled off a good race with clean shooting.
Which is not so common for you, hitting four clean items.
I was smiling from ear to ear. When I took off from the last item, I didn't care if I was going to win or not. I was simply happy that I’d made four zeros.
That feeling must make you fly through the last round...
Of course! Well, at least the first few meters after the shooting range before it catches up to you again.
You are very often called the "new Gabina Soukalová". How do you feel about it?
I don't pay attention to things like this. I think she achieved a lot, she was a huge personality. This comparing doesn’t seem relevant to me.
You actually came into the senior category the moment she left. Was it a lot of pressure? After all, biathlon had its golden years in her era.
I don't think it was such a huge pressure for me. The people above me who were already putting in great results must have been under a lot of pressure. When Gábina was there, one could at least hide a little behind her good results. When she left, it wasn't up to me for a while, there were older girls in the team. Now is the time when it’s coming to the surface somehow. People were used to us bringing home medals from each race. Now we only get them occasionally, which isn’t easy for the fans to stomach.
It wasn’t just Gábina who was on top in that era. Ondra Moravec or Veronika Vítková were also bringing home medals... Then suddenly it was all over. You could say that the fans and the team started to rely only on you. That must be a huge burden...
I try not to let it get to me. Of course one feels it. I know for myself what I can handle and what I can't. But if I let it get to me, I would go crazy. One needs to filter it somehow. You can avoid a lot of it by not reading all those articles. Because it’s mostly journalists who keep rehashing it, it’s not like that in our team. Everyone knows that I still have some time. I've only been in the adult category for two years, everything doesn't happen right away.
Going back to your transition from juniors. How big is the jump when you suddenly start competing in senior championships?
It's definitely different. In the world championship, every second matters; I wasn’t used to that back in juniors. There, when you happened to have dropped a cartridge and lost ten seconds, it wasn’t such a big deal. In adults, when you drop a cartridge, it may cost you ten places, which is a lot at the end of the day. So it's definitely different, especially when it comes to balance. It was a big shock that one has to take a little risk and go full speed from the beginning, or else the result will never be good.
Do you remember your very first race among adults?
I actually started in the IBU Cup (lower series of races) before I jumped into the big world championship. But I remember it. I finished my first race as the thirtieth or so. And I won the next one. Everyone was pretty shocked. I was quite shocked myself. It all happened so fast.
But you were able to rank among the world’s top athletes quickly. Did you even expect it to go this fast?
Not at all. These questions are difficult for me to answer because honestly, I have no idea what I expected. I wasn’t thinking about it at all. I simply competed, played sports and didn't concern myself with how things were going to turn out. I wasn’t dreaming, I just went with the flow.
Of course, great results are often accompanied by not so good ones. Are you good at handling it? Can you forget about bad results?
I always try to think about it that way. Sometimes it goes better, sometimes worse. It's like on a swing, which can get quite tiring at times. But I don’t have much time for that. When you’ve just finished a race and have another the next day, there is little room for thoughts.
In our day and age, fans have a lot of room to express themselves on social networks after a race. Write comments. Have you already had a real hater?
I try to avoid it, but it's not 100% possible. Sometimes someone sends me something, I read something or someone writes to me. So some of it always gets to me. I can't get rid of it completely. Of course, there are cases where I feel I need to defend myself, even though I know it's pointless. Sometimes I just shrug and let people think what they will. But it's annoying when you get a nasty message or something similar. But I guess this is how things always will be.
So, do I understand it correctly that there are even such individuals who send you a message right after a failed race?
It happens. I remember I even had some comment under my photos. In any case, it could be much worse, the people who write me nice and positive messages are still in the majority.
On the contrary, when you became world champion, you were, understandably, all over the internet. Have you gotten used to seeing your face in the media?
I don't think you can get used to it. I am aware of it, but I don’t pay much attention to it. You know, after a winning race, you don’t really have time to read it. But sometimes my grandmothers call me saying they’ve read something about me.
How do you cope with the bedlam of racing? Are you often stressed out? Or do you already have some rituals you can lean on and you don't let the pressure get to you?
It's a little better now, but there are still races where I'm more nervous. But I’ve learned to work with it. The worst thing is when I’m on my way to the racetrack and have time to think. Once you're there, you don't have time for that. It sucks when I don't start until five in the afternoon. That day’s practically wasted. I'm nervous, so I don’t get anything done. I mostly stay in bed and watch a TV show or spend the time on my phone.
Are you superstitious? Do you have any lucky charms?
I have a couple of things like that. I have my racing socks, some clothes and hairstyles. There are hairstyles that I would definitely not wear for a race. It's stupid. I've even tried to unlearn some of them because it was totally silly.
What should I imagine under that?
For example, I made it a point that once I finished shooting, I couldn’t take off the loops from my poles anymore. So if I wanted to do something without gloves, I couldn't.
How are your relationships with girls from other teams? There must be some rivalry, right?
It feels like the biathlon is really friendly. Of course, nobody will get out of your way during the race, but otherwise treat each other well. We wish each other good luck, we ask how it went and so on.
Who is your closest person among them? Who do you have a chat with before the race, for example?
I feel I have the most in common with the Pole Kamila Żuk. We are the same age, so we participated in a lot of races together. Or also Marte Olsbu from Norway, she is super nice and always comes to find me. But it's hard to name a few, everyone’s nice.
Gábina Soukalová or even Italian Dorothea Wierer are quite famous for their makeup. They were always made-up and stylish in a race. How about you? Do you sometimes put on make-up for a race?
I use mascara. When it rains, I don’t even do that, because it annoys me when it gets all messy. But otherwise, yes. I don't go to races with my morning face. But I don't try very hard. Moreover, I feel that the older I get, the less I want to bother with it.
You have probably the most distinctive stock in the starting field, you have a unicorn there. Did it provoke any reactions? After all, it’s not entirely common.
Some people did find it amusing. When they first saw it, they laughed. Most people noticed this at the Olympics, because you can't have any ads on your weapon there. So it was bare and everyone could notice. That was the biggest boom.
And aren’t you planning to change it for the next season?
Well, I've been thinking about it. I thought maybe I was getting a little old for a unicorn. But I'm also pretty lazy. So it might just stay that way.
In Karel Šíp's Všechnopárty, you mentioned that you weren’t planning to have a long biathlon career. Until twenty-six or so. How do you see it after this season? Can you imagine still doing biathlon in your thirties?
No, definitely not. Of course, never say never, it might happen, but at the moment I don't think so. It is another six years, which is a very distant future for me, which I cannot imagine.
You probably have no life other than biathlon. Or no time to have a life...
I mean, I try. I study, I go horse riding, I try to have a life outside of biathlon. But it’s only possible to a certain extent. Biathlon must always come first and sometimes it's great, but also quite tiring.
You’ve mentioned studying. What do you study?
I’m at the Faculty of Agriculture. I’d like to finish this year, I’m working on my diploma thesis. I have another one due next year, because I have two majors. And I've been admitted to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. I’ve interrupted that degree for now, it’s not possible to study it while doing biathlon. But I can go back any time.
But how did you manage to combine studying with training and competing?
I actually find it relaxing. I enjoy it and I like to run away from the biathlon world. So I'm always looking forward to the university world. I really enjoy it, which is probably the main reason why it works.
This year, Ondra Moravec announced the end of his career. How much did it affect the team?
It was sad. Every time someone leaves, especially if it’s a person who’s been there for such a long time, it's sad. Michal Šlesingr also left last year. It will be strange to start again without Ondra, will be one person short. Everyone has their own role in the team.
Is there anything you would like to change for the next season?
A lot of things, for sure. Most of all, I would like to get faster in shooting and accuracy. That's my long-term goal, one that I strive for every season. So maybe next year, I’ll finally manage to get better at it.