Jakob Ulreich VS Austrian Federation
I will start with some small stories before European Championships, because this story goes back some years. To make it short, we had our differences between Robert Petutschnigg and I already for long time…
Occasions of my skating season 2014
All trainings camps are either in Wörgl, West of austria or in Italy. All the transport organisation is always planned from Wörgl. All costs are (if they are) covered from Wörgl. So wörgl is the center of the >orld. Also the way he raises his athlets (now only 2 Juniors left) is contraproductive. My brother and I were criticized last year at the Worlds, because we were never with the team (which was composed with this 2 Juniors, my brother and I). So basically he wanted from us that we run after the juniors. As we criticized that, he was telling us that we don’t want to be part of the team.
There were a lot of this small stories where you know things are not right but that’s not the most important now. Just to let you know, that this situation from this year was not coming from nowhere. I already had problems with the material Uvex (more later) at last years Worlds and Euros. I was complaining about that. But the last years, I didn’t feel like having the postion to really say that’s not right and stand up against things that should be different. Because if your results are not so good, you don’t have the same position. That was the case last year at Worlds for example. My worlds were not going good, mainly because we had a trainings camp in Italy before >orlds with Maurizio Lollobrigida (our ex-coach) and all the trainings were for his daughter Francesca. But of course, I just realised that after some time when I analysed my preparation for Worlds. But I better come to the more recent story.
This year we had to sign a sort of contract again in the beginning of the year in order to be part of the nominationkader. This contract was just onesided. With points like we have to go to all trainings camps (even though most of them were not covered 100%). We have to follow all commands of the trainer and federation members. We are not allowed to say negative things in public about our federation.
So that was already the first small divergence. My club and I tried several times to make a skype meeting to talk it through but he always found some excuses. When we had a fix appointment, he told us that he could just be online on and a half hour later. I would agree to such a strict contract if we were professionals and getting paid, but like this you cannot make such a contract, because the athlets have 0 benefits… at least on the paper.
I was not going to most of the training camps from the federation, because I wanted to prepare specific for this Euros. So I trained a lot in Geisingen (Germany). There was one training camp in the beginning of the season in San Benedetto-del-Tronto (Italy), which started the same day as the International Race in Giesingen. However I was skating in Geisingen and stayed there to train (and as everyone could see it was worth it! ).
Let’s jump to euros
We had a training camp before Euros in Geisingen where I participated too. It was about 2 weeks before Euros, for 5 days. There, the problems started already. We got all our equipment for Euros. Including the old Uvex helmet and glasses from last year with whom I struggled already. I was skating with my own glasses at Worlds last year and at Euros after one race too. So I already knew what was waiting for me. I told Robert from the very first beginning, that I can’t skate with the helmet and the glasses. His first reaction was, that either I skate with that or I go home. Of course more athlets had the same problems but they didn’t dare to say it. So the first trainings I skated with my helmet and glasses. After some trainings Maurizio started to shout at all of us after the trainings that we have to use that stuff because it’s important for the future and so on.
After that, he told me that for him it’s ok if I skate with my stuff if I feel better with it. That changed the next day again, he was shouting at all of us because I was wearing my helmet and glasses. I also tried to talk with Robert several times and explain him that the helmet is moving a lot on my head and that the glasses drop from my nose at every movement. But he didn’t wan’t to talk to me. I had to ask him, beg him 3 times so he would listen to me. But still he refused to understand me. I also asked If I could skate with a different Uvex helmet or glasses but also that he refused. You have to imagine to put yourself up with that stress 1 or 2 weeks before Euros. That’s also why I wanted to solve this things before the races start because I already knew that Robert is gonna come to me one minute before the race and start to discuss with me…
An athlete representative but no changes
So I had no chance to become any understanding from his side. And Maurizio just did what Robert told him. Basically he didn’t care much about us. Thomas Petutschnigg, Roberts son, was elected athlete representative at the Training Camp in San Benedetto. We didn’t know that this representative would get elected there, but whatever. So Thomas was of course also not helping at all because he just does what his father says. The trainingscamp ended and I had 4 days to get some air and relax because they were going back home. I stayed in Geisingen. When they came again like 3 days before the races, I was skating with the helmet, because I could do it even feeling uncomfortable, but I just wanted less stress. But I simply couldn’t skate with that glasses and if I skated without it, I lost my contact lenses during the trainings.
One day, Robert said we should take the glasses for fotos. I did that because I understand… but then he wouldn’t let me change to my stuff again. Sometimes I had to argue with him during trainings. He wouldn’t even wait until the trainings are done so we can talk about that when the important things are done. Another thing was Maurizio. We always arrived about 2 hours before our training time and, what a surprise, always the Italians were training (because Maurizio has two daughters). However as soon as we were done with our training, 10 minutes later, Thomas and Manuel (also from Wörgl, the second junior who is at Worlds) were literally running to the food. I was still stretching most of the times and just taking a bit time to let the body come down. I also can’t eat immediately after a hard training. So I was most of the time coming 10 minutes or so later to the food with one or two other teammates. But as soon as they were finished with eating they were making stress to leave to the hotel.
Vanessa Bittner, our most successful athlete so far, was going with her Oakleys inside the track to compete at the 300m heats. Shortly before the warm up ended, Robert was calling her and telling her to change the glasses. She went away crying and skated without glasses. I was sitting 2 meters away from Robert and started boiling inside. How can you just be such an foul! This has nothing to do with sports anymore. Also Maurizio or the second Coach Nadja Petutschnigg (Robert’s daughter) were not saying anything to stop him. I raced that day without glasses the 10km point/elimination race and got 8th. During the race, I lost both my contact lenses. It was the best race in my life.
The next day I raced the 15km elimination race also without glasses. I lost both my contact lenses once again and got 10th, with still some strengths at the end. The next day was the 1000m heats. I raced but didn’t do too good. I missed the next round by one place. After my race there were the junior boys skating and one boy from my club was also at the Euros. So I was waiting for his race to end, because I wanted to watch his race and go eat with him afterwards. So I did. However the rest of the team was eating while he and two more of our team (we had 3 junior boys) were racing. So I was going to eat with Christian, Johannes (the 3rd senior), Lukas (my junior B club mate) and I. I first took salad and wen back in queue, then my coach Maurizio comes to me and tells me that we leave now. I tell him no because we still have to eat. He tells no I am the coach we go now! Me: you are more the coach of Italy then from Austria! He starts to shout again and tells me: you go home. Lukas was just shovelling the food in and got his stuff and run to the bus. Christian, Johannes and I stayed and finished eating. We were done 10mins later and they were gone.
I still have to explain why I said that to Maurizio. He never takes care about any of us despite Manuel and Thomas. He doesn’t tell the young ones a tactic, when to warm up when to do this or that. I am happy he leaves me in peace because I know he can’t help me and I have enough experience to know hwat I have to do. But the young ones had their first euros and yu have to take care of them and tell them everything. Plus he was most of the times with his daughters, Francesca and Iulia. So everyone saw that, all the other teams. Actually, that’s embarrassing just Robert, Manuel, Thomas and Nadja didn’t wan’t to see it. That’s why I said that to Maurizio… and some Italians even congratulated me far saying that. They were surprised I dared to tell that in his face.
Another important thing that happened on the exact same day before the Lunch: After the track races were over for me on the 3rd day, I raced the 1000m and didn’t qualify. Same for relay, we didn’t qualify. On more thing no one from the team qualified for the evening races, so there was no hurry at all to go home.
I tried to talk to Robert, once again
So I knew, that on the road, I can’t skate without glasses, because of the wind, insects, sun… So I was trying for one more time to talk to Robert and I did that on the track so everyone could see it and there were some witnesses. I came up to him and told him that I have to skate with my glasses on the road because I can’t skate without glasses and I can’t skate with this Uvex glasses. He was first saying like to whatever I want. But then, he started attacking a little bit and Thomas got involved, he attacked me verbal, saying what’s my problem, why I have to find stupid things just to bring disharmony and always complain. It got to much and I said shut up to him. Robert was calling to him because of that and I went directly in front of him. Then he said that I am a bad idol, and I never say thank you, because he organises always so many good things for us (like the clothes for the opening ceremony and other materials). And what I am thinking who I am…
Back to the letting us on the track story. Luckily, I know a lot of people and have friends in nearly every country, so we got a ride to the hotel. First Christian and Johannes and then me. When Christian arrived, he went to the room of Robert and told him that he has to pick me up, he wanted to close the door several times in front of his nose, but he stayed strong and in the end, he went. But at that time, I already arrived a few moments ago at the hotel, but he didn’t see me… so he went out for nothing.
Another situation that happened on the second day of races was following. We had 2 buses and we were going with our bags to the buses. The morning races were over and I had race in the evening, so I wanted to get as fast as possible in the hotel to rest. So I stopped at the first bus but everyone kept going to the second one, so I continued and just put my bag in the other car and sat down. However we were one to much. Of course Thomas who was also in the bus started talking to me why I am sitting in that bus and why I take the place away. Next to him was sitting his girlfriend (she is a biker and was there as a visitor, still she had all the Austrian clothes and was as it seems more important as some athlets). In the bus were more other athlets who were not gonna compete in the evening anymore, but still as you can see I am nothing worth in the eyes of a Thomas or Robert.
Back to the 3rd day
In the night after the track was finished, we had a meeting. In this meeting I got attacked from 4 sites at the same time: Robert, Maurizio, Thomas and Nadja were telling me that my behavior has to change. Whenever I tried to talk and justify myself, they were just running over me. Calling me a bad idol, in other words an idiot, a schemer, a troublemaker. And letting me no room to explain myself. In the end, I simply didn’t say anything anymore because anyways, they wouldn’t listen. Also Maurizio was telling stuff that we belong to the Federation and that we are no free persons as long as we wear the federation clothes. In the end, Maurizio said we all have to skate the 200m tomorrow, to make a kind of comparison.
Before the Euros started, around 5 days before, I had a small injury at my groin. It was a bit torn. I was making break 3 days before the Euros but luckily, it got good enough for the long distance races. I didn’t skate any short distances, the 1000m was the shortest. So the next day in the morning I went to Nadja, because Robert was gone for 2 days, and told her that I can’t because I am afraid to tore my groin again and can’t skate the long distance. Of course I also didn’t wanna skate it because I am long distance skater, I wanted to have a rest day. But with that reasons I had no chance, because Christian tried to tell that to Nadja, but she told him no he has to. So Nadja said, that I have to talk with Maurizio about that. I go to his room and tell him. He closes it doesn’t say anything so I just sit down in the corridor and talk to Vanessa about something else. Suddenly he opens the door and explodes. Saying that I am not allowed to talk and the same stuff like yesterday, that I belong to the Federation and I have to shut my mouth and do what they say… Nadja comes and doesn’t understand what’s happening so we 3 go in her room. Maurizio, Nadja and I. And she tries to understand what is his problem. But after a short time Maurizio just leaves the room and says ok I go home. Of course Ndaja runs after him and tries to calm him down. They talk for 15 minutes in his room. Then she comes out and calls me to her room. She is telling me with a vibrating voice, that because of yesterday and because I still don’t follow the rules I am not allowed to race for the next two days. I simply said ok and left the room. I was happy about the 200m that I am not skating them but of course I wanted to skate the long distance the next day. So I talked with some people, checked if I am maybe still on the start list but no. I had to watch the race from outside. The next day Robert arrived early in the morning again.
3rd day on the road. My best distance is the point race. Robert was coming in my room in the morning with Nadja. He gave me a paper where I was suspended immediately from the Euros. I had to leave the hotel the same day and to give all material back. The reasons were because I was bringing disharmony in the team, I tried to separate the team, it was a mistake to nominate me already after what happened at last Worlds.
I packed my stuff and left the hotel the same day. I still stayed to watch the races and for the party. The same day Robert broke his clavicular on the road while he was skating. Karma is a bitch.
Still one more thing about Maurizio. The first day of the track, the juniors B had to be the whole morning at the track, because they thought they have race. But shortly before their race, they asked them why they warm up. They didn’t registered them to the race. That’s what I call communication.
Dailysports and meeting
So that was the Euros. After the Euros, there was going the first article online at dailysports. And of course I was telling every nation what was happening in our team.
2 weeks after Euros we had the Austrian Championships on the road and Robert was offering me a meeting with Michael Eisl (the guy who is responsible for the money in the Federation), Peter Fritz, the president of my club and I. But I was still taking Matthias Stelzmüller (a friend, ex short-tracker and writer of the article). In this meeting, Robert told me that I can skate the Worlds, that they will change Maurizio and that I can skate with a different Uvex glasses and that I can take care of another inlay of the Uvex helmet on my own. (Suddenly that was an option). Whenever I started to talk about Euros, he didn’t give one comment about making mistakes or anything. So we agreed to try to work more together in the future. The meeting took nearly 3 hours I was dead afterwards. I said that I will try to be at more training Camps if it’s possible with my university. I am studying Medicine. Also he said that Matthias has to write another article were he takes some accusations back. Because Robert was letting us sign blanco lists. (he is working in a bank) Afterwards he justifies, that this is the only way and that they do everything correct and that he has to take that back.
Some days later I was at a lawyer to see the rulebook of my federation through. We found out, that Robert was acting against the rulebook in 3 points, by throwing me out the way he did. Normaly only the Präsidium, consisting out of 5 people can make this decision. He is not even part of the presidium nor did any of the presidium know that he was going to through me out. On the paper I got was the signature from Robert and my president. Since the Euros no one including me could get in contact in any way to our president. He is just existing on the paper. So at the lawyer I decided to call a court of Arbitration inside the federation which is nothing official. This instrument is here to solve intern problems.
Some time after I got my nomination for the Worlds and I told them that I will go, because they asked for a reply. That was at the same time as the Europa Cup in Slagelsee. By then Robert didn’t know that I called that court of arbitration and was super friendly. I was so surprised, why couldn’t it be always like that?
No more Worlds?
But one week later he came to know and told me in my face, that now it’s not that sure anymore with the Worlds for me. I started to plan my Worlds preperation. I decided to go to Portugal for one month, because in Vienna I don’t have the facilities, neither the group nor the weather at this time of the year. Robert send a SMS saying we should keep a date free for a Training Camp in Wörgl, but that was nothing for sure, so I couldn’t wait that long, I had to be sure to have a good preparation. When I was in Portugal I got a mail, saying that they took the nomination mail back, so no one was nominated anymore, without any reason. I was already afraid… One week after, I came to know that there was a meeting planned inside the federation. After one more week passed, I started to call people and tried to get some information. I found out that they decided with 4 people in a meeting where they were not even allowed to decide, where they didn’t inform everyone who should be informed that I am not going.
Dailysports once again
So I started to post on facebook talk with Matthias to get another article. Because I knew I won’t have a chance to change that intern decision, because they are blocking everything. I also changed my flight to come home earlier to talk to my lawyer. We decided that my only chance was to sue the federation and get a temporary restraining order. However, 4 days before the Worlds started, I came to know that it failed. The judge seemingly totally misunderstood my situation, also my lawyer was really surprised, but I knew that it was a big risk, because this situation probably never occurred in Austria before.
Meanwhile, some members, clubs and athletes of the federation were making themselves strong for me. But in the end, even if we had the majority they were blocking everything and didn’t change their mind, no matter what. I came to know several reasons why they didn’t take me. Of course never directly to me. One was that I didn’t make the criterias, which were a top 10 at Euros plus being at this training Camp in San Benedetto like half a year ago and sending them a performance test (which they never asked me for). But I also read mails where they said its because I was calling the court of arbitration or simply things that have nothing to do with sport and performance anymore. Of course the real reason is because they don’t like that I want justice and a decision about what happened at Euros, because Robert knows, that he was not right in front of the rulebook.
So that’s more or less where I am now. I will call another court of arbitration for the Worlds preparation, where I will also ask money back again, because I paid my preparation on my own, like most of the euros preparation.
Interview by Alfathor Photos: Ms Sibiet Thomas Wendt (RSV Blau-Weiß Gera)