Back in the everyday life of a World Cup athlete. 5th place in Kayseri yesterday. Completely fine after the strain of last week. The time off after the biggest race of the year at Olympia was well deserved. I needed it to rejuvenate and find myself. Because: From a subjective athlete’s point of view, who failed so miserably, there Is no point in trying to comfort yourself by saying “It was just another race” or “don’t worry, you will always be an Olympic champion”. NO, it just needs time!
So, here it was, the much-anticipated day X which I had dreamed of for the past four years. The 24.02.2018, the Olympia showdown in Pyeongchang. Excitement, curiosity, 100 percent Focus. The last moments before the start: I was ready, present and at the peak of my performance – and then….. 12th place, the outcome hurt so much. So disappointing, especially for all the people who have supported me the past four years however, mostly for me. During the first few minutes after the race the disappointment was so overwhelming it paralyzed me. Allot of factors contributed to this outcome. If one variable starts changing it destabilises the whole system. To be honest I was surprised by the wide positioning of the flagpoles. I was unsure how to adapt my technique to conquer this challenge. Right before starting I was still thinking to myself: “It will be fine, I will just use the same strategy as I usually do”. But looking back at the race my technique did not fit at all, especially on the day everything was supposed to fit. I accuse myself of not being able to foresee all the different options. Moreover, the fact that a much longer board, with a bigger radius, was ready and just waiting to be used. Instead it was stood against the wall in the equipment room, a mistake which isn’t supposed to happen. In all the seven training days I did not use this board once, the shorter board seemed to work just fine and so it never crossed my mind. Such thoughts are constantly going through my head as I try to analyse and justify my loss. Despite all these justifications the answer is simple: Setup, course structure and the fact that my technique just wasn’t good enough – it’s that simple no matter how complex I try to make it. And just to make things clear, I was giving 100 percent that day. Already after my first run I could feel that I just wasn’t getting into my flow. My usual speed: it just wasn‘t there.
And then came my interview. To be honest I was just happy that I had finished crying before stepping in front of the camera. My mind was just blank. Questions followed my simple answers, a game which I was all to familiar with. Nevertheless, the course structure was just incomprehensible. The Austrian trainers where allowed to determine the flagpole positions, a decision which already had been made two weeks prior to the race. They were the ones who were given the joker and chose an extremely wide pole structure, something we had not trained once. Completely misleading for the choice of my equipment. In the end all of this doesn’t matter. Of course, the trainers can set the course how they want. As an athlete it is my job to adapt to the conditions and perform: something I did not manage. A clear fail on my part.
I am often asked about my interview rite after the race: some, like sports journalist Ernst Hausleitner, think it was “extremely admirable and courageous” to announce my retirement then and there. Others think it was a tactical error and should not have happened. The question about my career, 5 minutes after my failed run was cleverly timed. I answered out of my gut and tried to be as honest as possible, and that developed into me stepping down, something which I had not planned. I am sorry if I, through this, I disappointed some people.
Honestly: This was one of the few moments on this day which I am proud to look back on. It was a moment where I was so immersed in my emotions and intuition that all thoughts of fear where pushed away. Sure, I could have answered tactically and said that I will still finish my season before making any further decisions. But the truth is that I had already made up my mind. It is not my style to simply stay for the sake of it. I know that I gave everything to fulfil my dream of attaining Olympic gold in Pyeongchang. It just didn’t work out.
How does someone work past such a loss? My answer is: work in progress. The flashback the morning after the race was profound. I just wanted to roll up in a ball and hide, I kept on asking myself: did all this just really happen? It really hurts. Preparing days, months and years for this one race and this is the outcome! I try to simply forget it, but I always jump back to thinking: “what would have happened if…?”. And then there are the other questions: Do I really want this? How am I going to earn my money? Wouldn’t it be smarter to just carry on?
In these moments I just think back to my interview at ORF. My career end was a gut decision, the right decision. Everything is just fine the way it is. I know I often surprise people but believe me, at that moment I even surprised myself. I believe that there are key moments which define your life, these are the moments which drag you out of your comfort zone. The race, the interview, it was one of the many key moments which will define me.
The evening after the race I was in the Olympic Austrian House. An incredibly fun and enjoyable evening. My two brothers and all my friends where there with me. I have a very strong connection to my brothers. They helped shape me to the person I am today, they where always there for me. High-level performance sport requires commitment in all areas. Training when others are out partying. Training when the rest of the family are enjoying Christmas cookies. Missing every birthday of my brother because it is race week. And so on… As we stood there in the Austria House my brother came up to me, hugged me and said: “Now I finally have my sister back. Do you want to fly with me to Bali?”
Hell yeah! It felt so great knowing it is over. I am excited and look forward to the time ahead of me! And I look back at all the moments thankfully. The moments of losing and the desperation after my many injuries. The moments of success, solidarity, the challenge of constantly improving myself. I have enjoyed every moment. Every minute of training, every day was worth it. Because the journey has shaped me more than the final outcome of the race. The race on the 24.02.2018 in Pyeongchang. And yes, it was an intense journey, but I could not have made more of it.
Finally, from my heart: TAHNK YOU; THANK YOU; THANK YOU to EVERYONE who believed in me and showed support. Sponsors, partners, trainers, family and friends. Without you I would not have been able to write this story, my story. The first ever Olympic gold for Burgenland! Moreover, in winter sport. The first gold medal for the Austrian sport of snowboarding, and this as a girl from Burgenland. These facts bring a smile to my face as I am still the little girl who has the dream of Olympic gold. A dream which seemed so unrealistic yet still came true. BECAUSE. Because it is worth dreaming.
THANK YOU, the best is yet to come.
Ps: keep your fingers crossed for the final races 🙂 Currently: 3rd Place in the overall World Cup, 2nd place in the PGS World Cup.