Rainer Schoenfelder gives his comeback in the Zagreb SL
The 33-year-old Austrian Rainer Schoenfelder gives his comeback in the Zagreb World Cup slalom on Thursday, 6 January 2011. This will be his first World Cup race in almost a year. The Austrian had to finish the previous season prematurely due to a knee injury. In 2009, a shin injury also forced Schoenfelder to terminate his season in January.
Why are you trying to come back at your age and after all the injuries you suffered over the past few years?
The fire inside is still burning. I do not have to prove anything to anyone and am not suffering from any financial hardships. It would be easier to retire but I am not known for going the easy way. I have to admit I came close to doing it at points in the past couple years. Even in more recent times, I experienced situations that were intoxicating emotional. My new service man tells me he suffers with me but in a positive way while accompanying me on my way back. I learned a lot about myself, society and how the sports world functions as a whole over the past years, especially also through the injuries.
The struggles and setbacks I had to overcome, taught me lessons for life. No one can take that from me. I got stronger by having been close to the abyss and I learned what is really important in life. After all that I went through in the course of my career up to now, I am seeing many things differently now. I can approach skiing a lot more relaxed. I feel like I am ready for the next step, whatever it might be.
What is the ultimate goal of your future skiing career?
The shorter term goal for this season is to position myself in the top 30 again. If I can participate in the season finals in Lenzerheide meaning I would have reached the top 25, I would be very pleasedr with myself. The longer term goal is of course Sochi 2014. I would not go through the whole effort to only come back for one season.
Do you feel pressure for time and by people’s expectations?
I do not feel I am under pressure. I am in the fortunate situation that I have my ski provider and the Austrian Ski Federation supporting my efforts. If you look at the European Cup result lists, Austria is lacking young talents in slalom. This plays in my favor.
Many people think I am crazy and old and it is their right to think that but it does not bother me. I used to be bothered by these things but nowadays, it just humors me. I can laugh at myself and that is important.
Every athlete is different and the structure within the teams should allow for such individuality. In Europe this is not always the case while the Americans seem to be more lenient in this regard.
What happened to your two projects – the house trailer and Schoenfelder TV?
It is interesting that many people seem to remember the house trailer although we did not go to very many places with it last year. It was a great idea and partnership but it was stopped as was the Schoenfelder TV project. However, what I learned from these projects will last me a life time. It was a fun experiment and I already have other projects in my mind but now I want to first focus on skiing.
How did the last few years make a different person out of you?
I was able to spend more time with people outside the skiing world, which was good. It raised my awareness of the world outside, made me think about life after skiing and what I need to do in terms of preparing myself. Many racers forget this and when they finish their career they have no backup plans.
I also learned from my great-grandmother to not take myself too serious, be more relaxed and accept the things I cannot change.
Did your flamboyant personality in previous years stand in your way of being even more successful in skiing?
It is difficult to say what would have been but I know for sure that I was taught the lessons I needed to learn. I am who I am today because of everything I did previously.
Where and who are you in some years from now?
I would like to still be involved in the world of skiing somehow. I cannot really see myself being a coach but rather taking on an advisory function of some sort. I want to use my knowledge and give something back while serving in the interest of the sport of skiing. Our world is constantly changing, clearly also with the rise of new technologies and social media and this will affect World Cup Alpine skiing as a whole. I would like to have an impact on certain areas of development in professional skiing.