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When a boyhood dream came true

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The date: 8 February 2022; the venue: Secret Garden in Zhangjiakou; the event: parallel giant slalom final. Austrian snowboarder Benjamin Karl had messed up the start in the final run against Tim Mastnak from Slovenia. Shortly after the first intermediate, he slipped away. His dream of Olympic gold seemed to be over. But – as he has done several times in his long career – Karl remembered his strengths: never give up; believe in yourself; keep fighting.

Four gates before the finish, his opponent made a mistake. Karl passed him to win the Olympic title, burnishing a career in which he had already celebrated victories in the overall World Cup and five world championship titles. Karl described his Olympic win as ‘a life project… something I wrote on my bucket list as a ten-year-old’. He trained like a madman for it, tormented himself in the gym, always with one big goal in mind.

All this from an athlete who did not even grow up in the mountains but in the relatively flat eastern part of Austria. Initially, he also trained on a mountain bike, but decided early in favour of snowboarding. At the age of ten, his career as a top athlete seemed to be over when he broke three thoracic vertebrae in an accident. But that fighting spirit was born: never give up, believe in yourself. It is a spirit that endured even after the Olympic victory: in the 2023/24 season, the now 38-year-old won the Parallel World Cup once again.