Lucas Braathen smiles to himself as the question is asked and leans back in his chair. “There’s a funny story there as well,” he says.
It’s the last question Braathen is being asked as part of a media conference call ahead of the new skiing season that begins live on Eurosport on Saturday.
He’s just been asked, given how happily he spoke about other sports helping him with his skiing, whether football has had any impact at all?
Because you see Braathen is not a normal Norwegian skier. He came to the sport relatively late and for a long time played football, partly under the influence of his Brazilian mother. There was just one problem.
“I was a pretty lazy kid. I'd say growing up in, you know, like five years of age, six years of age or something, Braathen says laughing.
“And I really learned from soccer that you have to do more than the next guy to beat him. You know just showing up at practice everyday won't do you any good. You'll be a solid football player, but you'll never be the best.
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“So when it came to football, I was in my second year like this. My second year in school. I asked my dad, ‘why am I so terrible like why? Why is why are all these kids so much better? I'm not scoring goals every time I get the bullet. Kids are taken away from me like I'm not contributing. Everything is super boring.’
And he's like, ‘yeah, but you're just showing up to practice everyday. And like all these other kids are doing that too. What makes you think that you're gonna be better?
So Braathen senior, Bjorn, took it upon himself to help his son work harder than every other kid, despite the fact that he knew nothing about football. There was a lot of hard work, but it paid off. Even teaching the younger Braathen why football wasn’t the sport for him.
Norway's Lucas Braathen reacts after competing in the men's Slalom event at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Kitzbuehel, Austria, on January 26, 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
“Within a year I was one of the best players on the team and I thought that was such a rush to beat those guys and just become the better than the next guy.
“And I think in that way the grind was really similar in when it came to skiing. I started off. Later I was the worst at the race academy that I first attended and I just figured out I have to train more physical strength.
“Then the other guys have to ski more days. I have to focus better and I think in that way the soccer grind kind of contributed to my grinding in skiing and kind of the grind from being the worst to one of the best at each team so in that way, I'd say soccer did a lot for me, but I've also learned that soccer is not my sport.
Because man I'd go crazy on my teammates if they didn't do their job and it's just like I need to be in an individual sport because I need that aggression to be only my fault and losing because someone else didn't do their part right.
"It's just I could never sleep at night, so that's also something that I learned, so that's why I think I ended up in an individual sport.”
And in that individual sport Braathen is something of a rising star. In a competitive Norwegian squad he announced himself last season at Kitzbuhel at the turn of the year by finishing fourth in the showcase event before securing four more top-ten finishes.
Kitzbuhel is a dream for every young (male) skier and Braathen is no different. He spoke about the feeling when “it’s actually your name getting screamed” by the crowd and how that sort of feeling is what “gets you up in the morning for sure.”
Lucas Braathen of Norway with a fan following the flower ceremony during the Audi FIS alpine ski world cup men's slalom Trophy on January 26, 2020 in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
Image credit: Getty Images
Now he has his sights set on a first podium and then eventually winning races. However he’s not looking to overcomplicate matters, although he’s not ruling out that possibility in the future.
“I still look at my goals to establish myself in in two disciplines and that I could have a stable top speed at both GS and slalom. I proved last year that I could do top results in GS throughout the season, but my form was extremely, unstable there are too many races where I went out, which are expected for first season but the goal this year is to finish more slalom races and have continuous top 10 or top five results and just establish myself on those top spots in both GS and slalom.
“And then you know, Super-G is another question, I've been training some Super-G and I did a lot in spring skiing and I think it's fun and I'm learning a lot from the speed guys and it contributes to my technical abilities as well.
“So if it fits the schedule and I feel ready knows, maybe I'll jump into some Super G races as well, but we'll see.”
Braathen is in a unique place. Three of last year’s top ten in the Alpine World Cup are his compatriots; superstar Henrik Kristoffersen as well as experienced old heads Kjetil Jansrud and the defending champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. Plus on top of that there’s still the legendary Aksel Lund Svindal hanging about who Braathen says still comes to some of the training sessions and is obviously a vast fountain of knowledge.
Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway and Lucas Braathen of Norway during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup - Men's Slalom on - second run - January 26, 2020 in Kitzbuehel, Austria
Image credit: Getty Images
“Their experience for sure. That's number one.” Braathen says when he’s asked what he gets from his team-mates.
“Just like last year and every venue was new for me. I haven't really been to any of the places I was skiing. And if I've been there it has been on a different hill, so it doesn't really matter.
So ahead of every race I could ask those guys, how are these break overs compared to the last race? Are they more intense or easier? How are these corners and how is the atmosphere?
“It's all these factors that I could kind of get a bit on top just by asking these guys and then for sure it's all these technical things. When I'm struggling with something I could ask these guys what do you think is the way to solve that?
“They have so many years in this game, 15 plus years as a professional skier. Obviously these guys have struggled with the same things that I do so just learning from these guys when I need help is Just so important at the end of the day, and I think it's the only reason why I could be able to ski fast on my first ever World Cup races in totally different venues is because we, Norwegians work so well together and they want to help me as much as I want to help them so I feel really confident in my team.”
Of course it’s difficult to chat to a young Norwegian athlete without bringing up the young Norwegian athlete of the moment, Erling Haaland.
“That is one hell of a soccer player,” Braathen says as he puffs out his cheeks.
“I gotta give it to him. He is.
“I mean the things he's done. He's really threatening those top players up there. It's just crazy playing for Dortmund at that age.
Erling Haaland (Norvège)
Image credit: Getty Images
“It's a great motivation to see what can be done and you know keeping in mind that is the same age as me really influences on me, just thinking this guy's the limit.
“I think it's so cool for a generation and really motivates me. So that's super cool.”
Behind Braathen's relaxed and easy-going nature there is a clear inner steel. It doesn't matter that he came to skiing later, and nor does it matter that he clearly excels at so many other different sports. He is serious about what he does and like so many other younger skiers on the male circuit he can see a gap that hasn't been completely filled in the post-Marcel Hirscher era.
It's early days for Braathen but this could be his moment.