Polestar: Big Air with Caja Schöpf

Rebellion can be political, personal – or motivated by sport. Especially as competition is all about rebelling against and overcoming one’s own limits. No one knows this better than Caja Schöpf, one of Germany’s best-known freestyle skiers. With her pro days now behind her,she currently works as a sports psychologist coaching other athletes. Because winning starts in the head. And new ways aswell.
Text Michael Köckritz
Photo Manuel Nagel

The interview with Caja Schöpf is the continuation of the "Motifs" series that Polestar has launched. The aim is to find out what drives special personalities to live their lives sustainably and to promote sustainability. The first part in rampstyle #21 was dedicated to triathlete Sebastian Kienle, the second part in ramp #52 to windsurfer Florian Jung. Learn more about "Motifs" by Polestar here.

Ms. Schöpf, the theme of our magazine this time is the spirit of the sixties and seventies. What does rebellion mean to you?
Caja Schöpf: That makes me think back to when I was a teenager. I managed to get so many referrals at school that I was almost expelled. Today I would say that rebellion has something to do with the desire to break out of the mold and with not wanting to conform to the system. Rebellion is also about doing things differently and not always taking the path of least resistance. But when I was faced with the prospect of getting kicked out of school, I made a deal: I could stay if I didn’t get another reprimand for one whole year. And I actually managed to get through that year without getting in trouble. I learned to be more diplomatic.

How do you reconcile that rebellious nature with the strict rules of competition sports?
Let’s put it this way: downhill skiing probably wouldn’t have been the right sport for me. Mindlessly skiing through gates and all that. Freeskiing, on the other hand, is a very creative sport where you can express yourself. It’s all about doing tricks. And you can do those tricks in different ways. Plus, you get points for style.

But still, you need to have ambition.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very ambitious person. In competitive sports, it’s important to have your own motives, that you do your own thing. And in endurance sports, which again is more about mindless training, it’s about pushing your limits, testing how far you can go. Which brings us back to the topic of rebellion. How do I manage to rebel against myself and overcome my limits?

And what is the answer to that question?
It’s a challenge to improve your own performance – and at the same time measuring yourself against others. To know that I am and can be better. It’s probably something intrinsic, because even though I no longer compete, I still enjoy running best times or doing mountain runs, challenging and torturing myself.

It’s a very intense physical feeling of having achieved something. Add to that the physical state of total exhaustion, which is also a rush, and the result is a kind of flow. But I don’t claim to always be running around like crazy somewhere. I also love taking a leisurely hike, going out to eat or just lying in the sun.

You studied psychology . . .
That’s right. I enrolled in sports psychology at Linz because I found the subject so interesting. I finished in ten semesters. Then I worked on getting the necessary training and experience to become a licensed sports psychologist and also earned a master’s degree in business psychology. That opened the door to sports, business and coaching. That was after my competition days. Today, I coach athletes on a freelance basis in Munich and have also started training part-time as a behavioral therapist, so maybe one day my life won’t be as hectic anymore.

"Rebellion is also about doing things differently and not always taking the path of least resistance."

Caja Schöpf

Is that a goal?
I’ve often asked myself this question – but I haven’t found an answer yet.

One of your mottos when you coach other athletes is “Winning starts in the head.” Can you tell us something about that?
At a certain level, everyone is equally good. From Lindsey Vonn to Usain Bolt, these pros are outstanding and talented athletes, physically trained to perfection. The only thing that counts is to be able to perform when the time comes. Someone who has doubts, who feels anxiety, fear, anger or pressure – in other words, someone who lacks motivation – will not be able to produce the performance they need. And that’s what we have to work on: the cognitive part, the emotional side.

How do you do that?
The key is to optimize. You start by looking very closely at where a person’s strengths and weaknesses lie. Then it’s a matter of building on the strengths and compensating for and accepting the weaknesses.

Like fear?
Exactly. You have to befriend your fear and realize what fear is. It’s an emotion. And every emotion has a function. In this case, it’s a protective mechanism. If I understand that, then I won’t fear things as much anymore, because I know that I need that fear – and can accept it. I can also choose not to call it “fear” but “respect”, to change the way it sounds.

What are you afraid of? Or rather: What do you have respect for?
Injuries, alpine accidents, avalanches. Things you don’t always have one hundred percent control over. That’s just as true for the moment I get on my bicycle in Munich. In life, there is always five percent residual risk. You just have to accept that, no matter where you are. But if I notice that the fear is getting the better of me, and I start to react physically to it, then I have to stop what I’m doing.

Is thinking too much, is your head, the biggest obstacle?
Absolutely. I like to use the metaphor of a triangle. And this triangle consists of thoughts, emotions and behavior. Each one influences the others. My emotions have a direct influence on my behavior. For example, you might start shaking because your muscle tone is coupled to your thoughts and emotions through the central nervous system. I have to learn to regulate my thoughts. The hardest thing you can do is to influence your emotions. But you can do that through positive self-talk, through distraction, by changing your way of looking at things.

How do you deal with failure?
Usain Bolt once said something along the lines of: “the higher the goals, the harder it gets”. That means I have to expect mistakes to happen to me when I start moving out of my comfort zone. And inevitably I will have to move out of my comfort zone if I want to improve, change or experience something new. But the important thing is how I deal with failure. I have to analyze what I can do better. The crucial thing is not to identify myself with the failures. The same thing has probably happened to a thousand other people before me. And I have to learn that there is no shame in falling down – just in staying down. It’s okay if it hurts, it’s okay to be angry or sad. You can cry or punch a wall if you have to. But afterwards you look back with some distance and say to yourself, “Good, next time I’ll do it differently.”Let’s talk about the Polestar 2.
That’s a part of my life that’s all about slowing down.

How so?
Well, the Polestar does accelerate from zero to a hundred in 4.7 seconds. It’s an absolute rocket. I sped over the pass at St. Moritz with it, which was great. But if you’re going to floor it, you’ve also got to charge it. It’s a different thing entirely to get in and say to yourself, “Now I’m going to drive eight hundred kilometers.” You can’t do that. Slowing down comes from having to plan things out and take your time, which creates awareness. It takes fourteen hours to get from Cologne to St. Moritz, not eight. And in addition to the changed sense of awareness, there’s the lack of noise in an electric car. It’s quiet. You’re traveling so fast, with such force, and at the same time there’s this silence in the car, as if you were floating.

"Four weeks ago, I was in a glacier cave that probably won’t be there next year. That’s pretty scary when you think about it."

What responsibility do automotive brands have when it comes to protecting the climate?
Currently electric cars are still mostly luxury objects that are best driven in the city. My wish would be to make electromobility possible for everyone. Ideally with simple vehicles that serve their purpose. And they don’t need to be ugly; they can still look cool. They just don’t have to be clad in ebony inside. That would require expanding the infrastructure so we can use the vehicles in the countryside.a

You grew up in the mountains, so the topic of environmental protection is probably not new to you.
That’s right. Four weeks ago, I was in a glacier cave that probably won’t be there next year. That’s pretty scary when you think about it. And skiing is not the most environmentally friendly sport either. I don’t have a season pass anymore and only go touring. Something else I should mention is that I used to jet around the world. My carbon footprint certainly wasn’t the best. That just needs to be said.

"My wish would be to make electromobility possible for everyone. Ideally with simple vehicles that serve their purpose."

Caja Schöpf

So long-distance travel isn’t at the top of your agenda anymore, is it?
No, now I like to see what sorts of things I can discover locally. I want to be more concerned with what’s right here in front of me, on my doorstep. It’s about being more satisfied with what you have.

Polestar 2
Enging: Zwei Elektromotoren
Batteriekapazität: 78 kWh in 27 Modulen
Leistung: 408 PS (300 kW)
Drehmoment: 660 Nm
0–100 km/h 4,7 s
Vmax: 205 km/h
Gewicht: 2.123 kg

Custom? Cover! Exclusively available at Polestar Spaces.

→ More Information: Polestar.com

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