Olympics-Alpine skiing-Doggedness earns Strolz coveted Austrian ticket to Beijing – Metro US

Olympics-Alpine skiing-Doggedness earns Strolz coveted Austrian ticket to Beijing

FIS Alpine Ski World Cup – Men’s Slalom
FIS Alpine Ski World Cup – Men’s Slalom

YANQING, China (Reuters) – Austrian Johannes Strolz lost his place in the country’s top team last year, leaving him to ponder his future in the professional ranks. Now, the 29-year-old is representing Alpine skiing’s most successful nation at the Beijing Olympics.

For months last summer, he worked as a policeman in a small town on Austria’s western-most tip, driving a patrol car and controlling traffic to earn some money.

His girlfriend and family advised him to keep at it. He continued to compete in the ski circuit without official support, preparing his own skis and being his own “serviceman”.

Help also came from across the border: The German Alpine team allowed him to train with them.

“Just a few weeks ago I was extremely close to the end of my career. I had a lot of questions in my head. Will I still be a professional sportsman after this season? Will I still be able to do what gives me the most joy in this world?,” he said.

Strolz’s sporting spirit was also kept alive by the fact that his coaches at the Austrian Ski Federation did not “throw him out like a ragdoll”. They told him “we see the potential that you can be one of the best in the world but we just can’t keep you in the cadre with this pre-season,” he told Reuters.

His perserverance paid off in January.

After nine years of World Cup racing, he celebrated his first World Cup win at the slalom in Adelboden in Switzerland, leaving him with tears of joy at the finish line.

It was this shock victory which got him an Austrian ticket to the Olympics.

Now, Strolz can carry on the family tradition.

In 1988, his father Hubert Strolz won gold for Austria in the Alpine combined race and silver in the Giant slalom at the Olympic Games in Calgary. Strolz’s team mate Matthias Mayer’s father came back with a medal from the same Olympics.

Strolz, who is set to compete in the combined on Feb. 10 and the slalom on Feb. 16, has been friends since school days with team mate Manuel Feller and German ski peer Linus Strasser.

“You have to be conscious of the fact that you don’t just get a place in Austria’s cadre for free. You have to earn it,” Strolz said. Austria is by far the most successful Alpine skiing nation at the Olympics, having bagged 121 medals over the Games’ history, or around twice as many as runner-up Switzerland.

“(My father) always told me how much energy his taking part in the Games has given him and that I should start with the same energy in this competition.”

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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