Interview with Kryštof Novák

5

„Hi Kryštof, most people already know you, but just in case, give us a quick introduction and tell us when and where the idea for the first tournament in Konopiště came from?“

„Hello Petr, hello disc golfers. My name is Kryštof and for the last ten years, my life has revolved around disc golf. I try to grow it every chance I get and, at the same time, find a way to make a living off of it. Specifically, I sell discs (I run proDiscgolf.cz, an online retailer), I help with the sale, design and construction of Disc Golf Parks in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, I make maps for Disc Golf Parks around the world, I organize tournaments, and I’m sure the list goes on.“

„Organizing the first tournament in Konopiště was born from an idea that Přemek Novák (my brother), Michal Grepl, and I had after experiencing the magical atmosphere of the 2011 European Open in Finland. We quickly realized just how powerful of a tool this would be for getting people interested in this amazing sport. Our three biggest goals were to get the world’s biggest players to come, get Czech media to take notice of our sport, and to put the Czech Republic on the map for the global disc golf community. To do that, we needed a place near Prague where such a tournament could be organized. One day, Přemek came across the Konopiště Chateau Park, one thing led to another, and before we knew it, he and Lukáš Filandr had designed the first layout for the 2013 Czech Championships in Konopiště. In later years, Jussi Meresmaa (owner of Discmania) got involved as well and took the layout and the tournament itself to a whole new level.“

„What is your role in organizing the European Championships?“

„Most of all, it involves planning and working with people. I already have a lot of experience in organizing tournaments, but never as the head of such a large event. Přemek has been the director of both the DGWT and PDGA Major, although I was quite involved in the preparations and the organization as well.“

„But back to the original question—before anything else, we needed a vision (what the event should look like), then to recruit a team, assign tasks and plan it all out. Once that was done, it was “just” a matter of bringing all those ideas to life. But during the tournament, I will be the one who guarantees that everyone is on the same page and that that any inevitable problems are resolved as quickly and smoothly as possible.“

„I would like to stop and emphasize one very important fact: I am not alone in this at all. My special thanks go out to Petr Tanka for his work with sponsorships, subsidies and funding in general. His efforts made it possible to take this tournament to the next level. There are lots of other important team members, but I’m guessing you’ll talk about them separately.“

„Few people realize just how much work goes into organizing an event of this size. And even fewer people probably know that you’re a bit of a workaholic. Do you have an idea of how many hours you’ve already put into the tournament this year? When did the preparations begin?“

„Well, like I mentioned above, I will do whatever it takes to grow our sport. That said, I realized early last year that if I left too much of the work for myself, I would soon burn out and the tournament would suffer. Soon after that, I started working to get as many reliable people as possible involved in the EDGC, each with their own responsibilities. As for the total hour so far, it’s not that bad—maybe 120 since the summer of 2019.“

„You’ve played in Konopiště 5 times so far, right? The last time was in 2017, when Konopiště was part of DGWT for the first time. Do you miss it? Would you like to play again or are you satisfied with your role as the organizer?“

„That’s a tough question that I’ve been asking myself for a few years now. I guess it comes down to the fact that I’m pretty good as a player, but I doubt I’ll ever get to a level where I’ll grow the sport more through playing than I would by organizing tournaments and promoting events. That’s the level that Paul McBeth and a few other chosen ones are at. But it doesn’t change the fact that I adore playing disc golf and enjoy it very much. So from time to time I do feel sad that I will probably never play the biggest events we organize.“

„And do you even remember your first tournament in Konopiště in 2013?“

„Yeah, I remember (smile). The course suited me (at least during training), I was probably putting with a DX Birdie and I finished 2nd in the pre-tournament distance contest, 15 cm second behind one of the two Finns (Eino Ansio) who participated in the first year of the tournament. I guess it was about 135 meters. Back then we still used a tape measure to figure that out.“

„Konopiště has undergone quite a few changes since its first year. What can we expect from the course in the future?“

„Well, there’s a lot of history here, for sure. First the Czech Championships, then the first Czech PDGA tournament, later the first EuroTour, Disc Golf World Tour and the first Major in Europe outside the Nordics. The European Championship is icing on the cake and this year will mostly likely be the last page in this chapter of Czech disc golf. The Konopiště Chateau Park and the trees in it are very old. The course gets easier every year and the already very wide fairways continue to expand as trees fall down. In addition, Konopiště is a bit out of reach for us because we are based in Moravia.“

„But don’t worry—we know how important big tournaments like this one are for developing the sport, so after a short rest, we’re going to get to work looking for new locations and opportunities. Ideally something closer to Nový Jičín and on a permanent course, which could be properly adjusted to a level suitable for EuroTour, a Major, and so on. We promise that Paul McBeth and his top competitors will have a reason to return to the Czech Republic in the future.“

„This year’s player list is the longest Konopiště has ever seen—350 players from 28 different countries! What is the biggest challenge in organizing such an enormous event?“

„The number of participants and countries hasn’t been finalized yet, and there’s always a chance of some big changes as individual governments react to the pandemic. COVID and uncertainty are probably the hardest parts. We had to leave a lot of things until the last minute, so we wouldn’t waste money. The size of the event and the number of players are not a big issue because most communication is between us and the representatives from each disc golf association, who then inform their players.“

„Last year had to be cancelled due to COVID but this year the championship will take place. Do you think that the tournament will be safe for both players and spectators?“

„The main reason last year’s tournament was canceled was uncertainty— no one knew what to expect. Ultimately, by August all the measures across Europe were so lax that we could have easily organized the tournament back then. During that year, both we and the government learned how to work during a pandemic and what measures need to be put in place to make the event as safe as possible for all. We will keep social contact to a minimum, players will be separated from fans and all the gatherings will be moved online (such as players meetings). All unvaccinated organizers and players will also have to take PCR tests on Monday or Tuesday before the tournament in the tournament testing center—at the GenDet Benešov laboratory.“

„A lot of amazing players are expected to show off their skills this year. Who are your picks for the top spots?“

„We have a lot of hopefuls this year—more than ever before. I don’t want to put too much pressure on particular players, but the Czechs always strive for high positions, especially in the categories of MPO, FPO and MJ19. But great results are possible in all the categories.“

„Thank you very much for the interview. Before we finish, I’ve got one last question: What are you looking forward the most this year? And please don’t say your holiday in Mallorca when it’s all over (laughs).“

„Thank you as well. I am probably most looking forward to shaking hands with the whole team of main organizers after the event and saying that we will gladly do it again sometime. That we did a lot of good work, we took Czech disc golf a little bit further, we feel good about it, and we want to experience it all over again in a few years. That’s my hope and I am confident it will happen.“

The joint EDGF 2021 European Disc Golf Championship, European Masters Disc Golf Championship and European Junior Disc Golf Championship is organized by ČADG with the support of the following partners: NSA, Středočeský kraj, Discmania, Kostka Stav s.r.o., proDiscgolf.cz, město Benešov, Discgolfpark, Lesy ČR a.s., PDGA, EDGF, and Kofola a.s. We are grateful to all sponsors.