Vladimir Sorokin: four short Allar Levandi stories

Jaanus Piirsalu

What happened and what could have happened, as told by grand old coach to beloved Estonian Nordic Combined figure.

How 1987 World Champs got messed up…

«A year before he did very well in Oberstdorf, jumping with Kneissel skis. Without us knowing, such skis were banned for World Champs in the summer. He totally unravelled with the new skis, couldn’t understand them. Sat there in stupor. When it is the jumps, can’t go mess with the sportsmen. I told him afterwards: had you been my own boy, I’d have slapped you. He said: why didn’t you! In a word, he only jumped to be 21st but he skied to be fifth!»

How Levandi never won a World Cup stage …

«Yep, he had loads of second places. (Six in total, and he was 3rd four times – J. P.) Once in Germany the win was stolen from him! Allar was second after jumps, I think Hubert Schwarz was leading. I was waiting at the course. Schwarz went but no Allar though he should have come soon afterwards. «They just would not let me start, held me longer!» Mr Levandi told the coach afterwards. It was one line back then, and no electronics. The referee said when to go.»

How 1989/1990 World Cup seasonal win slipped away …

«This was Levandi vs Klaus Sulzenbacher great duel year. The last event was at Hamar. The winner to be decided, Levandi was second. (Till that event, Levandi had been among top three at seven stages of eight – J. P.) First round, second round – all of a sudden, Levandi comes over the radio: «Vladimir Aleksejevitch, if I jump right now I will absolutely crash!» I could not tell him you must jump. I said come down then! He was just unglued psychologically. Then he came to my 70th birthday and said: «Vladimir Aleksejevitch, I actually could have jumped back then.» But you know this is ski jumping, every jump is life or death. How was I to know... Winning World Cup series is harder than World Championship or Olympics. Allar got real close.»

How «true Estonians» screwed up Lahti World Champs…

«1989 in Lahti, Finland. The team event. We were second after jumps. Real golden opportunity. But Allar came under such psychological pressure! From Estonians! Already, you were having a strong movement to break away from the Soviet Union. They begun to call him saying Allar do not represent the USSR etc. Allar of course was a decent and responsible person but they gave him no rest nor sleep before the relay! The whole night they kept calling him! In the morning, Allar asked me if it was okay to take a small Estonian flag with him to the pedestal. I said of course. We were so sure about a medal. Allar skied first shift and totally flopped! He was so burnt up and tormented. We ended up fourth.»

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