From rookie to pro: How to make it into the TIMBERSPORTS® elite class

As it has in previous years, the 2023 Rookie World Championships in Rotterdam impressively demonstrated that there are many highly talented young athletes in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® series. With 17 personal best times achieved at the event, including two world records, the stats speak for themselves. Sooner or later, several of these young athletes will take on one of the toughest tests of all; the leap to the Pros – the elite class within the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® series. In recent years Marcel Steinkämper (GER), Oliver Reinhard (SUI) and Emil Hansson (SWE), among others, have shown how this trajectory can progress and how to become established among the national top performers. 

Emil Hansson, shown here at the Stock Saw, established himself at the top of the sport at a young age.

Getting started as a TIMBERSPORTS® athlete
A recommendation from a friend, participating in a talent scouting event or even a family referral, people’s first points of contact with STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® can vary widely, and may even lead them to a career as a lumberjack. The first thing that needs to happen is a lot of training. Training is necessary to develop the requisite strength for the sport, and to learn and improve techniques in the various disciplines over a period of months. During this first step, enormous commitment and the will to constantly improve will certainly pay off, especially for those who intend to get to the top tier of lumberjack sports. Marcel Steinkämper, Oliver Reinhard and Emil Hansson are particularly familiar with these basic virtues: "You have to always keep at it and you can’t give up. Even if you sometimes can't motivate yourself or you don't have much time for training, you still have to turn up for it. Then the improvement happens on its own," says German athlete Marcel Steinkämper, looking back on his beginnings. "Most athletic ability develops gradually through training. "Of course being muscular helps, but the sport really is suitable for anyone once you find the right technique for you," explains the 2021 German Newcomer Champion. That said, constant training alone will not necessarily lead to success. Oliver Reinhard explains that you must never forget patience on your quest to improve your performance: "There was a time when I was training too much in the hopes of getting better results as quickly as possible. What actually happened, on the contrary, is that my performance fell off a cliff. It is important to find a good balance for yourself. That is how you master this challenge". 

Achieving new performance peaks by constantly testing your strength
The idea is to prepare for the first competitions one step at a time, with continuous training. Upcoming athletes moving towards the highest performance class benefit not only from the training opportunities in TIMBERSPORTS®, but also from the competitions for young talent, both national and international. First and foremost, these include tests of strength alongside the best talents in your own country. Most rookies are relentlessly motivated by the pursuit of new records in every competition. The next step is to win against the top talents in Europe and the world. An exchange programme gives young athletes the opportunity to travel to other countries and take part in national competitions throughout Europe. "Many rookies now have the possibility to participate in more competitions than before. It is also great to find a mentor among the pro athletes. Use the opportunities that are available and make sure you also do your part. The US TIMBERSPORTS® athlete Matt Cogar, inspired me to become better and I visited him several times to train especially the chopping disciplines," explains Emil Hansson. Although training is primarily something the rookies do as individuals, learning from one another and close cohesion with other athletes are essential for every individual's development at STIHL TIMBERSPORTS®. "At TIMBERSPORTS® we are characterised by a strong community. You inspire each other and want to beat the other one next time round," sums up Oliver Reinhard from Switzerland.

Learning together and growing together in sport
The Rookie Academy presents a special opportunity to network with other emerging athletes and to learn from them as well as established pros. Each year, the best rookies from Europe are invited to an annual training camp, where they are prepared for the next steps in their TIMBERSPORTS® careers. "The exchange is particularly important. You can share tips and tricks with each other to become even better," says Emil Hansson, describing the networking that takes place among the athletes. Marcel Steinkämper agrees: "You grow together as a community even more. Competitors become friends and you train together more often."

In addition to the extensive competition experience and a strong sense of solidarity, there is one more essential component of this journey for rookies; developing the mental strength required to take part in TIMBERSPORTS® events. Swiss athlete Oliver Reinhard feels that this is one of the most important points in the development of a pro: "I am thrilled with the support that young athletes receive. The many competitions I have participated in has helped me enormously to develop my mental strength and to not panic as soon as I step onto a stage." Clearly a good tool for success. Reinhard won second place in the Rookie World Championship in Vienna in 2022. For the Swiss competitor, and indeed for many other rookies, this was one of the biggest and last tests of skill before entering the ranks of the pros. "When I took second place in the Rookie World Championship, that chapter closed behind me and I wanted to get involved with the big boys," said the 23-year-old about his decision to join the pros.

Winning an international competition, like Emil Hansson did here at the European Trophy 2022, is the dream of all rookies.

Eyes firmly on the pinnacle of extreme sports
All three started out as rookies in TIMBERSPORTS® and were able to work their way up to the elite class and turn heads at international competitions. Oliver Reinhard and Marcel Steinkämper have already become regular podium candidates who make their rivals sweat – even on an international level. For Hansson, a Swedish native, the trajectory was even steeper. As two-time Nordic champion (2022 and 2023), the 22-year-old has already achieved everything there is to achieve at national level and even enjoyed an international triumph when he won the 2022 European Trophy. The Swede has already decided on his next goals: "A long-term goal is to become the best and win the World Championship. On short-term, I would like to be on the podium in an international competition such as the World Trophy or the World Championship." As 2023 Nordic champion, Hansson has already secured a starting place at the Individual World Championship on 4 November in Stuttgart. Oliver Reinhard and Marcel Steinkämper want to develop towards that goal over the coming years. To do so, they must prove themselves among the best in their countries and win the respective national championship title. For Steinkämper, achieving that in 2023 would immediately qualify him as a local hero for Germany. Each of them will undoubtedly take a spot within their respective national squads in the team competition on 3 November, standing where many emerging rookie athletes aspire to be; on the large international stages of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® Series.

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