||Für die meisten E-Hockey-Kenner ist er der beste Torhüter der E-Hockey-Welt und vom Behindertensportverband seines Landes wurde er gerade zu seinem besten Nachwuchsathleten ausgezeichnet: Atso Ahonen (19) aus Finnland. Für ballbusters.de gab er ein Exklusiv-Interview und sprach dabei über seine Liebe zum E-Hockey, zum Eishockey und zu Lena Meyer-Landrut.|
Das Interview folgt im Original-Wortlaut, wird in den kommenden Tagen aber übersetzt werden.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: Mister Ahonen, at first please complete the following sentence: "A real wheelchair hockey star..."
ATSO AHONEN: ...is a player that takes care of the team, does his or her best in every game, plays clean game and respects opponents. A real star wants continuously new challenges and he wants to become a better player, even if he’s one of the best already.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: That's true. You’ve been actively playing wheelchair hockey for about seven years. How did you get to know this sport and what is it that fascinates you the most about it?
AHONEN: This season is my 8th, so I’ve been playing electric wheelchair hockey since 2003. I started at the age of 12, next summer I’ll be 20. A few days after my disease was diagnosed, I read an article about this sport and decided right away that I would start doing that. I’ve always been interested in sports, especially ice-hockey. When I was young, I wanted to play hockey, but couldn’t. This sport gives me a chance to fulfill my dream of being a top athlete. Winning feels so great.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: I totally agree with you. But is there something about wheelchair hockey that displeases or dissatisfies you and that should have to be changed?
AHONEN: I think the speed limit internationally is an issue. It should be set to 15 km/h and be strict that no one would go faster than that. It would even teams and the competition would get even more tighter and better. Otherwise I’m pretty happy of where this sport is at the moment.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: Do you have a strict speed limit in Finland?
AHONEN: Yes. Our wheelchairs' maximum speed is strict 15 km/h. And we have a system to test, if the wheelchair is within speed limits. It's great.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: In general, finnish wheelchair hockey developed pretty well in the past years compared to many other countries. How do you see the development and the future of wheelchair hockey in Finland?
AHONEN: I guess hard training and good development of our sport wheelchairs helped us along the way. It’s not been an easy road. Everyone worked hard, we knew we had the talent to do almost anything, but to play together as a team is not always that simple. In the last couple of years we learned to play as a team together.
Here in Finland we are very optimistic about the future. Our goal is to go higher and higher internationally. Nationally we have to find more players so that wheelchair hockey will grow and become more respected among other disabled sports.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: In your seven seasons you were witnessing very great events both with your club, the Seinäjoen Sisu, and the national team of Finland. Which moment or which event in your previous career stayed you in mind the most?
AHONEN: I have to say that the most memorable game for me is the bronze medal game in recent world championships in Italy where we as the national team beat Italy 6:5 after being behind 2:5. I would say that this is the biggest achievement I’ve accomplished in this sport. After the world championships we had the opportunity to play a show match in Floorball championships in Helsinki. We played in front of 5000 people, it was amazing! But I also remember clearly my first goal in our finnish league back in 2003; that’s one of my dearest memories considering this sport.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: Of course there are not only wins and medals but also setbacks and defeats in every sportsman’s life. How do you deal with defeats?
AHONEN: Well, at first it bothers me if my team loses, of course. But after a while I just start to focus on the next game, because what’s done is done. I try to learn from my mistakes and do better next time. And music really helps me get over defeats and disappointments.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: Which music do you listen to? Punk?
AHONEN: Haha, do you mean punk rock and my hairstyle in Italy? I love punk music, but I listen to all kinds of music, from rap to death metal and pop!
BALLBUSTERS.DE: For example german pop by Lena Meyer-Landrut? ;-)
AHONEN: Last year I watched Eurovision song contest and fell in love, haha! She was my favourite competitor and I can’t wait this year’s contest. I heard she’ll be Germany’s competitor this year, too!
BALLBUSTERS.DE: Yes, she will. Only the song is still missing. Well, beneath your big passion, the music, you’re also an ice-hockey fan, especially of the Buffalo Sabres...
AHONEN: Oh yes, the Buffalo Sabres is my favourite ice-hockey team in NHL. Sadly I haven’t seen them live, that’s one of my dreams. This past autumn I saw Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes play in Helsinki in NHL Premiere. It was a great experience. But my favourite team in the whole wide world is Espoo Blues, a team that plays in the Finnish league.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: Some people suppose ice-hockey to be quite similar to wheelchair hockey. Do you think your ice hockey knowledge helps you to improve your wheelchair hockey performance, for example in tactical aspects?
AHONEN: Oh definitely yes! I play wheelchair hockey as a goaltender and I’ve learned quite a lot things watching ice-hockey goalies. Especially in penalty shots. There are many small things I’ve picked from ice-hockey tactics and the way the players move in the field.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: You’re definitely doing well, because you’re continuously nominated for the national team of Finland and you’re even often mentioned as the world’s best goalkeeper. What does that mean to you, to belong to the elite athletes?
AHONEN: It means that I’ve been going towards my goals. Right from the start, after my first season when I went to Helsinki to see the first Electric wheelchair hockey championships in 2004, I decided that I wanted to be one of the best and play there some day. It’s always been around my playing, to become better and better. Of course, it’s a great honour for me when someone says I’m the world’s best goalkeeper. That’s my goal, to be the best.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: So it seems, that you’ve achieved your goal, because the finnish disabled sports organisation recently gave you an award for being “The Best Young Disabled Athlete of the Year”.
AHONEN: Yes, it was a great honour for me. But I still think I can do better.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: Of course, there are always goals left. Which ambition do you have for the next years concerning your team, the Seinäjoen Sisu? Do you have personal goals, too? Or dreams?
AHONEN: My goal is that we could be on the top three of our finnish league. Of course, it would be nice to win the whole thing but we have to play way better than what we’ve played so far, if we want to win the gold. My personal goal is play well so I’ll be picked in the new national team and play in next European championships 2012.
BALLBUSTERS.DE: ...which are going to be held in Finland...
AHONEN: Yes, they are and I’m very excited about it! This time the home crowd will be on our side and finns are quite sports people, so I expect that there will be lots of people to see us play!
BALLBUSTERS.DE: I hope so, too, and I wish you all the best. Thank you very much for the interview!
AHONEN: Thank you, this was a very nice experience! See you all, hopefully soon!