“Being a successful athlete was always my dream since I can think of. I was never one of the best in sport so I learned how to fight and follow your goals until you reach them even when they are pretty far out in your imagination.”
“Once upon a time” is a good way to start the story of Carina Edlinger’s breakthrough success in cross-country skiing.
The 19-year-old Austrian experienced a fairytale rise in her debut year, finishing the 2016-17 season on top of the cross-country World Cup rankings in the visually impaired class and grabbing two world titles at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships.
The dazzling success came as a surprise to the athlete. Edlinger was a competitive able-bodied skier in Austria, even winning the national youth championships. But as her vision began to deteriorate, she thought her victory days in sport were behind her.
That is, until she discovered Para cross-country skiing.
“It was more special for me because I never expected to reach something like that anymore,” Edlinger said of her outstanding first season in the sport.
“Being a successful athlete was always my dream since I can think of. I was never one of the best in sport so I learned how to fight and follow your goals until you reach them even when they are pretty far out in your imagination,” she added. “For me I think the biggest motivation was to let my dreams come true.”
Used to being out of the spotlight during her earlier competitions, Edlinger was determined to get noticed when she went on the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup circuit.
“I finally had enough of being one of the athletes in the background,” she said. “I decided to change that and started to train to reach that dream, not just to see all the sports stars but rather to be my own star. I would absolutely not call myself a star, but I am on my mission to let the dreams of my heart become reality.”
The young athlete’s glittering results last season were extra special as she got to share them with her guide and older brother Julian. Edlinger credits their sibling rivalry for pushing her to do better times in the races.
“Julian and I have been two separate athletes before we entered the World Cup so we both train like we are still two athletes,” she said. “For us it is more fun when the guide and athlete have their own competitions and each of us has the ambition to try to be faster than the other one.”
In the ongoing season, Edlinger has so far won four bronze cross-country medals ahead of the final World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland and her first Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. But even without these milestone achievements, she already feels like a winner.
“The last season gave me that feeling that all the years of huge gaps and cliffs, which I have passed had been worth me putting everything together again and continuing,” she said. “I absolutely do that sport from the bottom of my heart and I got strength from all the things I overcame. Now when I set a goal, I follow it until I reach it.”
The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games take place from 9-18 March. Tickets can be purchased here.