By Armand Whyte, OSL
Tanja Poutiainen, Finland's number 1 alpine skier, started early. She took part in club championships for under 9-year-olds six times.
In January 2011, she became the oldest World Cup winner in slalom at the age of 30 years and 9 months.
She is one of Finland's highest paid sports stars. She says:
The winter is a time for counting seconds; come the spring we count the money.
We talk to Finland's number one alpine skiing star, Tanja Poutiainen of Rovaniemi, in the arctic north of the country.
Poutiainen has been skiing since she was a little girl under nine. At 31, she is a veteran on the World Cup circuit, with 11 victories to her name in slalom and giant slalom.
Tanja, have you completely recovered from all your back problems?
My back is really good and since mid December I have trained normally.
Tell us about your race in Cortina, Italy where you won the giant slalom.
It was a great race! Before I didn't like this dry snow too much that we always have in Cortina, but this time it felt so easy and nice to ski. I think my new Racetiger skis helped also a lot.
Winning the last GS before Vancouver 2010 - that must be a boost for your self-confidence. And turning our thoughts ahead to the Winter Games - how important is that mental part when the gold medal is on the line?
It was a good timing for the victory. It's important to know that I can ski fast in a race and of course it gives me even more self-confidence. We have done the right things lately in the training and I can have a good feeling to go to Vancouver and fight for the gold. Still, I know that nothing will come easy there but we will do our best.
The ski must have been very fast in Cortina. Will it be as fast in Whistler as well - or do you have to change the setup?
We don't know yet about snow conditions in Whistler because the weather can also change really fast there. But I believe I have a fast ski and we will test the settings again in Whistler before the race.
Völkl has some novelties. What is new about the Racetiger?
The color is great and ski is fast -- just what I need!
You will be a favourite in GS and Slalom. Any wishes?
Well, there are always many favorites and I am one of them. It doesn't change anything -- I go there and go for the best runs for the season.
Besides the races in Whistler, what are your expectations on Vancouver 2010?
Before my own races are done I don't think too much about anything else. Maybe after my races I will have some time to look around the beautiful places of Vancouver I have so much about.
You have been to Nagano and will now participate at the Olympic Games for the fourth time. Do you still remember what is was like to be an Olympian in 1998 and what has changed by now?
Yeah, Nagano was my first Games and everything was new. Whatever I did there, everything was just a good experience. Now it's more about going there and doing my job. I know what to expect there and it feels good.
Thanks to Völkl.