Five historic victories in all alpine skiing events at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games have carried Germany’s Anna Schaffelhuber to No. 20 of the Top 50 Moments of 2014.
After winning her fifth Paralympic gold medal in Sochi, Schaffelhuber told reporters that she knew topping the podium was a possibility.
But doing it five times? That was unbelievable for her to comprehend.
“When you win a gold medal, everything has to be 100 percent,” Schaffelhuber said. You need a good day, good skiing, good conditions, good skis, a comfortable run and of course, luck.”
History in the making
The 21 year-old sit-skier became the second straight woman to sweep all five alpine events at a Paralympic Games. Four years ago, Canadian Lauren Woolstencroft accomplished the feat on home soil in Vancouver.
Schaffelhuber came into Sochi 2014 as the world’s top ranked sit-skier and defending world champion in the slalom. But success in the downhill, where she narrowly edged American teammates Alana Nichols and Laurie Stephens, set the tone for a golden week.
“I knew that everything could happen if the first competition brought success,” German national ski team coach Justus Wolf said. “After the downhill win, by far not her best discipline, I thought that she would win five medals, but had no thoughts on what colour they would be.”
With one race, and medal, out of the way, Schaffelhuber would add to her collection with victories in the super G, super combined slalom and giant slalom.
Matching the men
At her best, nobody has proven to be a match for Schaffelhuber in the slalom. Her times have been so stellar, she has taken to comparing herself against those set by the men.
“I want to try and be in the top three-five times in their category,” Schaffelhuber said. “This worked out in some slalom races last season and now I want to be more constant.”
She claims that she is not there yet, training for upcoming campaign while adjusting to her newfound celebrity.
Now and next
Following Sochi, Schaffelhuber’s schedule has been packed with so many media requests, public appearances and award shows that she compares it to a second job. As a result, the aspiring lawyer put her studies on hiatus during the summer months.
Academia also provided one of many ‘pinch me’ moments for the German National Paralympic Committee’s 2013 Athlete of the Year.
“I saw a maths exam where kids had to calculate my times in a run, or the distance of my gates in a run with photos from Sochi. That was pretty cool,” Schaffelhuber admits.
Maybe one day, one of those students will become the next Schaffelhuber, as her career path has gone hand-in-hand with her school work. She started skiing at age five, made the German national team in 2007 at just 13 and won a Paralympic bronze medal in 2010 as a 17-year-old.
That is when friends and family really took notice.
“In the beginning they didn’t expect me to become so successful like I did in Sochi,” Schaffelhuber said. “During the last four-five years, balancing school and skiing was difficult, but it all worked out.”
The 2014-15 season will see a continuation of the rivalry between Schaffelhuber and Austria’s Claudia Loesch for the top of the podium at the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in in Panorama, Canada, from 1-10 March. Loesch won three gold medals at the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain.
“For Anna, the Paralympic success has been a big motivator and evidence that her efforts before Sochi 2014 were right,” Wolf said. ”She was very disciplined again this summer and is ready to improve again."