Interviews

Jakub Janda: I am prone to nerves and stage fright

Published: 16. 7. 2021
Author: Karel Černý
Photo: Photo archives of Jakub Janda and Shutterstock.com
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I met up with former member of the national ski jumping team and current M.P. for ODS, Jakub Janda, while he was preparing for his final exams. He successfully graduated in the summer, so any guilt I felt for keeping him from his studies could be forgotten.

How did your studying go?

The stress kept building up with the coming exams. Things don’t really stick with me as much as they used to when I was younger. What’s more, I was a pretty lazy student back in the day, I kept looking for ways to avoid studying. (he laughs) I could not get out of it this time, and I have to admit that the last month leading up to the exams was pretty nerve-wracking. It is also just a Bachelor’s degree, and I plan to do the two more years to get my Master’s.

I thought athletes had nerves of steel. Do you really mean to tell me that you were nervous during the renowned 2005/2006 season, where you won the World cup as the first Czech ski jumper? Or when you and the Finn, Ahonen, finished in a split first position at the Four Hills Tournament?

You thought wrong… (he laughs) I have always been prone to nerves and stage fright, wherever I go. It is a lifelong battle of mine. When I used to jump, I would have my own rituals and habits, ways to concentrate and relax. I greatly profited from working with Vasja Bajc, the Slovenian coach. He was also an excellent psychologist, and he prepared me well. Vasja always managed to calm me down, and then he would say, “Do what you have to and it will all be okay.” It worked. I remember being in an almost trance-like state back then. I did not care what was going on around me on the hill. I did not even know how far the others were jumping.

Is it harder to keep your cool at the top of a ski ramp or in the Chamber of Deputies, where you often have to listen to some – let’s call them distinctive – ideas of your parliamentary peers?

Some people really do go over the top sometimes. But people being opinionated and emotional is also a part of politics. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and unless it is vulgar or insulting, it is appreciated. What's more – the closer we get to the elections, the more everyone tries to be seen and heard. That is politics too. Those people were elected, they were given confidence by the voters, and it is up to the voters to decide the next time around whether they were well represented by the given person.

You are running from the fifth position on the ticket in the Moravia-Silesian region. Four years ago it was the fourth, and you got carried to the second by preferential votes. Do you think they will work in your favor again?

It is difficult to speculate whether I can defend my mandate or whether we can win in our region, as we are teaming up with KDU-ČSL and TOP09. We could also end up having just five, six, or seven seats. We are still four months away from the elections, and the mood is ever-changing so I will not even try to predict a result. Naturally, I will do everything within my power to get reelected. It is up to the voters how they evaluate my four years in the Chamber. Everybody has to pay their dues.

Is there anything in these past four years that you would call purely your own professional success?

I am an opposition politician, so only very few of my many proposals were accepted. There was one regarding foreign VAT returns I submitted three times. I did manage to push through an amendment regarding water sports. Through that, you could say that I helped roughly 680 thousand water sports enthusiasts who should now be allowed to pass through waters in the proximity of hydroelectric plants. This means that they will not have to drag their boats overland, but will have free access to rivers. I have instituted easier conditions for guides in indoor areas. However, what I am most proud of and grateful for is the fact that I managed to resume negotiations with the Paralympic committee and equalise the conditions for handicapped athletes. That is something that has a great impact and true meaning.

Is there anyone in the Chamber you are friendly enough with to go for a beer, or is there too much rivalry going on?

There certainly is rivalry, and there are definitely some people I would not consider going for a beer with. At the same time, there are a number of people that, while I would not call them friends, are good for a friendly conversation. I have a good relationship with František Elfmark from the Pirate party, for instance. He lives in the M.P. accommodations a floor down from me so we often walk to the Chamber or back together and talk. We have a deal that when everything opens up again, we will have that beer. We have different opinions on certain topics, that is something we tend to talk and encourage each other about. But the vast majority of these conversations are not political but rather human in their nature. I do not want to be stuck in a bubble, I want to hear what my colleagues from different ends of the political spectrum have to say.

Where do you actually live – in Čeladná or in Frenštát?

I was born and have lived in Frenštát my entire life, even though people keep saying I am from Čeladná. People from Prague cannot grasp this idea because they have a hospital on every corner there… (he laughs) Back then the closest hospital with a maternity ward was in Čeladná, so that is where this whole notion originated. To reiterate – I am a born and raised Frenštát patriot, despite having been born ten kilometers away.

Frenštát is 350 kilometers away from Prague. You probably don’t get a whole lot of family time.

Unfortunately, that is true and it is difficult. Whenever I am home, I try to make up for my absence and do what I can around the house, from painting the fence to mowing the lawn. My wife is thankfully very understanding and supportive. Now that I am done with school, however, I have to make it up to my family. I hope that I will not spend this summer on the hill, but rather relaxing in our inflatable pool with them.

You have three children, and they all have quite English names – Oliver, Meggie, and Willien. How did you come up with those?

Let me clear up the child situation first... (he laughs) Oliver is from my first marriage. I got Meggie by marriage, and Willien I have with my second wife. As for the names – when Oliver was to be born, I and my then-wife were trying to come up with all kinds of names. I would then bring the ideas to my mother, and she would always exclaim, “No way!” My mother is a kindergarten teacher, and every name had a connection to some other child in her mind. When I came to her with the name Oliver, she said, “Yep, that's a nice name. I've never had an Oliver in any of my classes.” It did not take long and she came back saying, “Oliver is off the table! One just started and he is such a little bugger.” But the decision was made. And about Willien, the doctors kept telling us up until the sixth month that we were having a boy and we had already picked out the name Viliam. But then, out of nowhere, they told us it was going to be a girl. So we started looking and found Willien, which is of old Dutch origin but mostly used in the U.S. In fact, she is the only one in Czechia, we had to ask for permission to use the name. They offered us the name Vivien, but that is the neighbor's daughter so that would just be two Viviens next to one another. (he laughs)

Let's get back on the topic of you. Is it true that despite being a winter athlete, you hate the winter as well as the snow?

Yes, it is. What's more – I was a ski jumper, but I am afraid of heights! (he laughs) That is one thing that made me stand out among other ski jumpers. Standing on top of the ramp, the wind blowing all around, frozen to the point of not even being able to clip in properly, seeing the drop below... I would always tell the others when I got to the bottom, “Dammit, guys, I should have been a boxer. I would just waltz up in there, nice and warm all around, get knocked out in three seconds, wake up in the dressing room, and be done with It! ” (he laughs) So yes, I really do not like the winter. I like when it's warm, but not direct sunlight either. It can be thirty degrees in the summer as long as I can stay in the shade. But the winter makes me miserable. There is snow all over the place, I have to keep shoveling it and cleaning it off my car. I like things nice and clean. Sure, I like to go skiing and I don't mind snow up in the mountains, but down below is another story.

CV BOX

Jakub Janda (born April 27, 1978, in Čeladná), is an M.P. for ODS and a former ski jumper.

He has graduated from three different colleges – during his years as an athlete it was European administration at the VSB – Technical University Ostrava and Sports management and coaching at the Faculty of Physical Culture of the Palacký University Olomouc. Currently, it is the College of entrepreneurship and law, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing communications.

He started competing in the Ski Jumping World Cup in 1996, earning his first points in 1997. The long-awaited first place came on January 23, 2005. At the Oberstdorf world championships in 2005, he earned a silver medal on the normal hill and bronze on the large hill. He ended the 2005/2006 season on a high note, winning gold at the Four Hills Tournament.

In October 2017, thanks to a substantial amount of preferential votes, he was elected a Member of Parliament for the ODS, which led to him ending his sports career.

He lives in Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. He has a son from his first marriage named Oliver (11), a daughter by marriage Meggie (10), and a daughter Willien (2) with his second wife Barbora.


Jakub Janda with his wife and children.

Another Janda on the hill

Jakub's son Oliver takes after his father when it comes to sports. Is there a possibility that the Janda family name will once again appear in world cup standings? “I would be elated, of course,” says Jakub. “But he's only recently turned eleven, so it is hard to say how his talent will develop. His coach, my former teammate from the national team, Jakub Sucháček, says that it is like watching an exact copy of me. All the way down to the way he moves around the hill as well as my style, where I would almost touch the tips of the skis with my forehead. The very style that the German coach Reinhard Hess once called anachronistic... (he laughs) We are not forcing him into anything, though. Having the Janda name on your back in a competition brings huge expectations. I want him to enjoy ski jumping, not just do it for the medals.”

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