Photos Michel Juvet – majicmiju.com
Sincere thanks to the Library of Geneva for their welcome and for allowing us to photograph Tanguy Nef .
How did you start skiing?
When you live in Switzerland it’s easier to start skiing and even more luck with a ski instructor dad. I think I started skiing at the age of 2 in Thyon-Les Collons in Valais, then every winter with my family in La Tzoumaz. My brother and sister were registered at the local Ski Club, and it is thanks to them, or rather because I was a little envious of their jacket that I wanted to register too. I started competing when I was 8 years old, and in my first race in Bavon I finished 3rd. My dad encouraged me a lot from the beginning.
How does one get to the competition and especially at such a level?
As children we watched races on TV, every weekend with my brother we did simulations of Olympic games, I was already conditioned. The pleasure of the fresh snow, being outside in the mountains, we love snow sports and I always wanted to ski. I always find this notion of pleasure as soon as I put on skis. Competition requires a lot of work and sacrifice, I left the family cocoon at 14 to join the sport study of Brig. I was able to avoid injuries and always received the support of those around me, which is without a doubt a major factor in my success.
You are at Dartmouth University in the United States to study computer science and economics, why this choice?
In 2014 I fractured my tibia and fibula in Crans during a run in the Swiss junior championships, the year I wanted to join the Swiss Ski team. So I needed a plan B if I didn’t make the selection. It was a bit daring to go and study in the United States, especially since I was only 18 years old and facing a personal challenge. Today I am very happy with this choice, I have good friends and a normal life. As for the university, it is fantastic! It’s on the East Coast, one of the oldest, and is celebrating its 250th anniversary. My choice of studies was a gamble, I had no idea of computer science and economics is related to all the events that happen in the world and that interests me a lot.
How long do you have before you graduate?
Only 3 terms left, I expect to graduate in June 2021. This winter, I will devote it entirely to ski racing, and from April 2020 I will start my bachelor thesis work.
Do you plan to give your all in skiing before starting a professional activity?
I like ski racing but also extra-sporting activities, so I can see myself pursuing a partial professional activity between competition periods. Skiing is great but it’s good to be able to disconnect. Moreover, I have developed with a friend a service company to support young people who want to study in the United States. Skiing is also a professional activity that is managed a little like a small business.
What would be your dream job?
As a professional skier it’s not bad as a privileged job, especially since it’s 60% of my travels and I meet people from all over the world. It must be said that in Switzerland you can make a living from it, so it’s fundamental. After skiing I don’t have the answer but it would be nice to be in nature, an activity for planet earth and its climatic challenges for example. I will seek happiness and to be close to friends and family.
How to find the balance between sport and study?
I very quickly found the balance between sport and studies because I started young in La Florence in Champel, I had hours arranged and the deal with my parents was that to ski you had to pass the school stages. In Brig, it’s a sport-study school, so we have coaches, teachers, friends, all are there to support you. Sport-study is designed to provide you with all the necessary structure and the teachers push you because you are a student but also an athlete.
Do you come back to Geneva often?
I try to be there as much as possible to meet my friends in Veyrier, and being there for my little brother is my balance. On weekends I often go up to the Tzoumaz to share activities with my family, the spirit of competition is never far away.
Your favorite places in Geneva?
I love Les bains des Paquis, the water’s edge, mummy even swims there in winter with the “givrés”, a little place where you can escape, you eat there very well and it’s not too expensive.
You are registered with Ski-Club Académique Suisse (SAS), your training club which also happens to be one of your sponsors. How did you get into the SAS?
Thanks to my older brother who was registered with the SAS for 2 years. He was studying architecture at EPFL and on weekends he participated in SAS events like the Opening, the AngloSwiss or the Closing and took part in all the races. He came back home so enthusiastic and told me about the activities related to skiing and the great atmosphere that reigns in SAS Geneva. Students and members come from all over Switzerland and all share the same passion for the sport ” One Club, One Spirit “, it’s a bit like those fraternities, those clubs in universities in the United States and elsewhere where the students have common values, the same interests to have fun, the fraternity in Switzerland. I look forward to joining them more often when my schedule permits to measure myself against them and share good times.
To reach the top 30 in the world, there is talent and determination, but also you can imagine the training.
Talent and determination with big sacrifices at the beginning: the first was to leave home at a very young age and then to leave Switzerland to go to the United States. Training is crucial. We work in the strength room or practice different sports such as track and field, climbing or relaxation sessions. Sometimes in the summer we go up on the glaciers and that’s complicated! We get up at 4 am to start training at 7 or 8 am to have good snow, the conditions are not necessarily pleasant, we are at 3800 or 4000 M, for the Swiss it’s simpler we have Saas-Fee or Zermatt but what motivates me the most are the races. The pleasure to be free, to improve on a movement is unique but it requires work, the result is not a coincidence. I have a lot of respect for the efforts made by all sportsmen and women.
Who are those athletes you love?
There are many of them, but to name just a few: Roland Colombin is a great champion with a unique character that I had the chance to meet, he is a bon vivant but remains mythical for many people. Jean-Claude Killy and his exceptional career, he won many medals at the Olympic Games but he also revolutionized skiing by bringing a new technique. His career as a businessman in the United States is just as impressive. Bode Miller is also, in my opinion, an atypical athlete with an incredible track record. His style is natural but goes beyond the frame to achieve his exploits, he still inspires many people today.
At 23 years old, in the World Cup only since 2017 you already have a nice record of achievements, it’s exceptional, how do you explain that? Mentally ready and less pressure?
I was the first to be surprised by my results, but it is clear that the mind played a crucial role, not everything was ideal but I found the mental key that allowed me to free myself effectively and repeatedly. All the more so as my first race was a return from injury, so it was the culmination of hard work and perseverance. I managed to take my place and it’s very satisfying.
What do you find the most satisfying in skiing and the most constraining?
Believing in oneself and getting to the end of things and on a personal level it is very satisfying to bring the family together to see them together during the races.
The hardest part is being far away without my family and a little brother who calls me every day that I can’t always answer.
This season you will be able to devote yourself fully to skiing, how do you feel about this season?
I’m moving more towards the professional year, a year of performance where I can push the limits to become my comfort zone with the goal of the next Olympic Games in 2022.
What state of mind is one in when starting a competition such as a World Cup?
It’s different every time, the beauty of this sport is that no two races are the same, the conditions are never the same, every turn is different, the mood is variable. It is therefore necessary to find the solution to get to the start in the best conditions, a perpetual challenge on oneself, a healthy body and a healthy mind is a learning process for my whole life and it has brought me balance. At the starting gate it’s thinking about the chance to be there and to participate in the race, to have fun, to show the best of your skiing.
A united Swiss ski team? Or does the competition start there?
Still a lot of work at this level, it is true that in university and I believe even more in the United States, it is the team spirit that prevails, we do not fight against each other but rather against the clock, if one shines the whole team shines. I try to inspire these values but it is not always easy, because in a team for a country it is a bit like every man for himself.
What are your next challenges?
Without any doubt the 2022 Olympics at the sporting level, I also have the mission to find additional sponsors, a watch brand for example, it would be great! On a personal level I have some projects like making a movie, working on my bachelor thesis and learning Spanish.