Teele Toomsalu: "The victory brought tears to my eyes because I never believed I could do it"
Teele, last season you made quite a splash in the FPO scene, winning the European Pro Tour event at Kõrvemaa seemingly out of the blue. Your victory at the Estonian Open could be called a Cinderella story, as you secured entry to the tournament just a couple of days before the competition from a qualifier event. How surprising was this win for you, or did you secretly dream of victory?
For me, it was an unbelievable experience. I remember vividly when I went to try and qualify for the Estonian Open. I had never been as nervous as I was during that qualifier. I remember my hand shaking uncontrollably on the first putt because I really wanted to earn a spot in such a big tournament happening in our beloved little Estonia. I was incredibly nervous throughout the entire round, and as I looked at the scores on the last basket, I was very happy because I knew it was me who would earn the spot.
The first day of the Estonian Open was also nerve-wracking because I had never participated in such a big tournament before. I didn't dear to dream of winning because there were many very good and strong players present. I was determined to stick to my game plan and do what I had set out to do. When the first round was over and I looked at the scores, I was shocked because I was in second place. I felt chills running down my spine and goosebumps all over.
On the second day, I played in the lead card, which was filmed and broadcast live. Luckily, I'm not afraid of the camera because I've been in front of it a lot. I approached the second round with the same mindset, to do what I can, and I did very well. When the round was over and I looked at the scores, I was tied for first place with Kaidi, which was unbelievable, I would never have believed it.
Going into the last day, I was very, very nervous because it was my first experience starting the final day of such a big tournament in first place. In my head, I thought if I didn't stop shaking soon, nothing good would come out of it, and I promised myself to play my game. And I did it successfully. This victory brought tears to my eyes because I never believed I could do it.
Foto: Marika Salmi
What were your thoughts on the last opening throw at the Estonian Championships in 2023?
I knew I was in the lead, but I didn't get nervous; just some small mishaps and wrong disc choices on the penultimate holes. When I went to the last hole, I knew I had a one-stroke lead, and my playing style is more attacking, so I went to attack the basket because in all the previous competition days, I had gotten close to the 10m circle. My disc slipped out of my hand early or I held it too lightly at that moment, and it flew left out of bounds. After that throw, I got nervous because I knew the game could turn around from there. I went to the drop zone and attacked the basket with my forehand because I trust my forehand more than my backhand. Unfortunately, a strong wind came at that moment and pulled the disc straight and again out of bounds. Then I knew that the hope of the title was lost, I accepted it because there was nothing more to do. It was a learning moment for me. In the future, I will definitely be smarter and stronger in that regard. But I still won the bronze medal, and I am very proud of it.
Your previous season can be considered very successful - you offered strong competition in all the important domestic tournaments. You started your season with a second place at the winter championships, added several A-tier wins and podium finishes, and also secured third place at the Estonian Championships. How satisfied are you with this season, and how would you sum it up?
Yes, indeed, I am very satisfied with this season. I managed to win several PDGA tournaments, which made me very happy. The biggest setback was the second and third rounds of the European Open in Finland. I really wanted to make it to the fourth day, but my nerves got the better of me. But there is much to learn from this.
What's your disc golf history and why weren't you seen playing last season?
I started in 2018, I had played a couple of times with friends before. My first competition was already in 2018, at the Discihullud tournament. Last season, I was away due to injury. My background before disc golf was football, which I played for 17 years, it was my passion. Unfortunately, I injured my knee badly in a game for Flora, so I had to go under the knife. It was mentally and physically very tough for me. It took me a year to recover from my knee injury. I had to learn to walk and move again from scratch. During that year, I realized that I had had enough of football and that I wanted to play disc golf and get better at it.
What do your off-season and in-season training look like? What do you focus on the most?
Since I spent a lot of time in the gym with my knee, I could also start training my arms and back right away. Since putting is very important to me, I spent a lot of time in the gym during the winter practicing putting. When the weather got better, I spent a lot of time training my throws because my operated knee is my supporting leg, and when I throw, I twist that leg, so I needed to get rid of the fear of hurting my knee. I've spent a lot of time on the courses to get even better. This year, I've focused the most on accuracy so that I can hit the corridors in the wooded courses nicely.
How do you feel your game has changed in the meantime (both physically and mentally)? Where do you feel you have become stronger, what needs more refinement and attention?
I feel that my game has become much more confident; I no longer hesitate in my performances. Of course, I still need to put a lot of effort into dealing with difficult situations, so that I don't rush and don't get nervous, but stay calm and think my decisions through.
Who do you currently see as your biggest competitors and why?
Right now, I see my biggest competitors as our Estonian girls who have developed so much. Of course, my biggest competitors are Anneli Tõugjas-Männiste, Kaidi Allsalu, and Kristi Unt. Since they have been playing longer than me, and they have a much larger baggage of experience than I do.
Foto: Marika Salmi
What are your big goals in disc golf that you train and work hard for?
My big goal is to compete in the US and showcase my skills there.
Foto: Marika Salmi
You recently signed with Discraft. How did that happen?
Somebody told Discraft about me, and so the team manager contacted me to say they wanted to put together a team in Europe and asked if I would like to play on their team. It was smooth a smooth sail from there on.
What discs do you have in your bag? Which of them are your go-to discs?
Buzzz, Zone, Undertaker, Anax, Force, Zeus, Hades, Crank. My go-to discs are the Paul McBeth 2023 series Force and an older run soft Zone.
How much can you talk about your contract, what are your obligations and benefits?
I don't have anything to hide on thad side - I have to play at least 15 PDGA tournaments a year and when I post on social media, to tag them in the posts. If I finish in the top four at a PDGA tournament, I receive a certain amount of discs. Later, it was added that there is also a bonus system for good results in Major, Elite, and A-tier PDGA tournaments.
What does your off-season training look like this off-season?
I try to go to the gym as much as I can between work and taking care of my child. I can do gym workouts twice a week when my child is with me. On weekends, I try to play as much as possible.
What foreign competitions are already firmly planned?
I had a definite plan to participate in the DGPT tour, but unfortunately, I have to withdraw from some tournaments due to financial reasons. I will participate in all competitions organized by EDGLI in Estonia.