'Born to ski'. This is Benjamin Raich, born February 28, 1978, in Arzl im Pitztal, Austria, one of the greatest Austrian alpine skiers to date. When he was 15, he attended the nearby ski-gymnasium in Stams to pursue commercial studies. At the age of 18, he dedicated himself completely to ski racing with the full support of his parents. Nicknamed 'Der Blitz aus Pitz', after having won Junior World Championships in both slalom and giant slalom, Raich made his debut in the Alpine Skiing World Cup in 1996, participating in the SL at Kvitfjell/Hafjell in Norway, but he skied out in the first run. He collected his first World Cup points two years later, finishing 10th in the Giant Slalom at Crans Montana. The following year he claimed the first podium, obtaining a third place in the SL at Kranjska Gora and the day after stormed to the win in one of the most prestigious races on the tour in Schladming.
In the month of January he scored another two wins at Flachau and Wengen, but he failed to meet expectations in the World Champs' at Vail/Beaver Creek, with a disappointing 5th position in the GS and a disqualification in the Slalom.
He gained the first World Champonship medal in 2001, a silver in the Slalom on the home snow of St. Anton and at the end of the season he lifted the Slalom World Cup trophy. In 2002 he won two bronze medals at the Salt Lake City Olympics and in 2003 failed to reach the podium at the Worlds' staged in St. Moritz.
With the passing of time the ever competitive Raich has matured and found more familiarity with the speed disciplines such as Super-G and Downhill and he redeemed himself in the 2005 Worlds' in Bormio, where he raced to win five medals (two golds in Combined and SL, plus a silver and a bronze).
In the same season Raich just missed out on the Overall World Cup, losing to American Bode Miller.
In the 2005-2006 season he claimed his first overall World Cup thanks to an incredible season that saw him notch up 7 wins and other 5 podiums. The Austrian also snapped up the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, capturing both gold medals in the technical events. He is also the first skier to have won a Super-Combined.
The 2007/08 season proved to be the worst for 'Der Blitz' since 2001-2002. Raich won only at Bad Kleinkirchheim and after leading the WC standings in the first half of the season he was soon overtaken by Bode Miller in the second part of the winter.
Raich went into the 2008/09 season, a World Championship winter, with plenty of fire in his belly, ready to show that he was still capable of being the number one in the sport. During a season that saw no one athlete dominate completely, the Austrian showed flashes of brilliance (the giant slalom victory in Adelboden) mixed with a lack of concentration (his exit at Schladming). Still, he went into the finals at Are with a chance of clinching his second overall globe after 2006 and avenging the three second places since 2005.
His biggest rivals for the crown was Aksel Lund Svindal, back in top form after his life threatening crash the year before, and Ivica Kostelic. He was level on points with the Croatian before the first race in Sweden and but Kostelic's back problems soon meant he fell out of the race. Raich was 72 points behind Svindal after the first race, the DH but recovered well with an excellent fourth place in the superG and a win in the GS. He was now in charge of his own destiny going into the final race, the SL - Svindal's weakest discipline. He trailed the Norwegian by just two points but disaster struck in the first run when Raich straddled a gate.
That spelled the end of his hopes and once again the Blitz from Pitz had to settle for second in the overall title for the fourth time in five years. It was the most bitter of ways to lose and is also the smallest losing margin in the history of the sport...just two points!
He did take a silve medal away from the World Championships in Val d'Isère in February in the Giant Slalom.
Raich has a total of 30 victories to his name in WC races and is currently 7th in the all-time winners standings.
His hobbies are tennis, rock climbing and bungy Jumping. His sister Carina also is a professional skier.
On the tour Raich is also famous for his engagement to fellow Austrian skier Marlies Schild.