“Bronze at the World Championship was an incredible encouragement for us and motivates me for further rigorous training.”
The Czech Republic’s Patrik Hetmer reached the pinnacle of his alpine skiing career with a bronze in the giant slalom at the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Panorama, Canada, in March.
But whilst the visually impaired skier, with guide Miroslav Macala, has been busy training in the build-up to the new season, he is also trying to qualify for the marathon at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Hetmer first explained that finishing on the podium in Panorama in the giant slalom was not something he expected.
“Feelings were just…unreal, euphoric,” he said. “I admit that we all cried a lot - and of course we celebrated it so much. We did not expect a medal at all, but we have gradually improved and in Panorama in the end it worked out so I was very happy.
“Not only for myself but also for my fans, family, sponsors. It was our first big medal and hopefully not the last. We have high goals, Paralympic ones!”
Achieving a bronze medal, Hetmer said, is a massive source of inspiration for the 2015-16 alpine skiing season which is already underway.
“Bronze at the World Championship was an incredible encouragement for us and motivates me for further rigorous training. Feelings at the start of the new season are mixed because we haven’t trained on snow as much as we should and want to. We focused more on other forms of training.”
In addition to his winter sport ambitions, Hetmer also has the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in his sights which will add another dimension to his career.
“Well an individual goal of mine is to try to fetch the marathon qualification for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro,” he said. “I would be happy if it worked, if it does not, life goes on.”
Discussing his demanding training programme, Hetmer outlined how he has adapted throughout the year.
“It is very diverse, a lot of cycling, road and mountain bike, then I run. In the summer, I specialise at long runs. At the end of the summer, we add in the gym, running up and down stairs and generally we try to gather a lot of power. In addition, we also use in-line skates and various aids to help improve balance and co-ordination exercises.”
However the 32-year-old admits that it has not been easy to get to where he is today.
“In early October, usually we begin to ride for snow on the Austrian glacier,” Hetmer began. “Unfortunately, this year we completed just one pre-season training camp due to lack of funds. The paradox is that despite getting a medal at the World Championships, we received almost no funding to prepare. Currently we are doing a lot of practice at the gym and praying for the snow in Czech Republic so we would be able to train at home.”
Despite the absence of training on the snow, Hetmer has high hopes for him and the rest of his team.
“It’s very difficult to estimate ambitions for this year but we would like to step up on the podium at the Europa and World Cup regularly,” he said. “We do not know how many races we will be able to compete in due to funds. Gradually we will try to increase the ambitions but when you only spend five days on the snow in the pre-season, it is very difficult to compete against the world leaders.”
The 2015-16 IPC Alpine Skiing season is underway, continuing on Friday (18 December) with a Europa Cup in Kuhtai, Austria, where Hetmer will line-up.