In part three of our series on retaining the title we spoke to Matthias Dolderer. In 2016 there was no stopping Matthias Dolderer! The German pilot dominated all competition and apart from one race you could find him on the first or second step of the podium at every location.
At the end of 2016 a lot of experts within the sport were saying that this could be a new dynasty and that Dolderer could be the champion for the next few seasons. But he struggled in 2017 and had to watch his close friend, Yoshihide Muroya take the title away from him.
So how did Dolderer cope with being the champ? "For sure, whether you want it or not, there is more pressure on you, from yourself, from your team, from your partners, from the media, from your friends, from the fans, from everyone," he said at the recent race in Abu Dhabi.
He went on to explain that when people see a drop in your performance, or that other pilots have caught up to you they focus on the negative. "If you don't perform at the first races, everyone says, 'Hey, you're losing,' then they don't say, 'Well done for making the Final 4, or second or third.' The expectation is a lot higher. And this automatically puts more pressure on you," He explained.
Dolderer is quick to point out that it's difficult to keep your focus and remain at the top of the standings. "I think to get it the first time was easier. Paul [Bonhomme] is the only one in the history of the sport who successfully defended his title, 2009 to 2010. Yeah, it's really hard, so what can I say?"
The German pilot knows the effort it takes to win a championship, and also that once you win, you become a target, and everyone wants to chase you. That's where it can become a problem. "Once you've won, nobody can take that from you. But also one thing is 'how do you refocus?' You have to reset completely, because a new season starts and the cards are reshuffled. Nothing is guaranteed and everyone is getting better and better. The times are very close together all the time. And again it's about consistency. That's what we are aiming for, and we'll see what happens," he said.
So how will Dolderer get that World Championship trophy back in 2018? "Of course the goal is to become World Champion, but for now I'm just focusing from flight to flight, go back to the principles of 2016 and see what happens," he concluded.
Check back later in the week when we speak to Paul Bonhomme about retaining his title – the only pilot in the history of the sport to win back-to-back championships.