Sometimes, sport writes the best story tales. Or where else could be the set-up comparable to selling fridges in Alaska be as successful as Julia Dujmovits biography?
Born and raised in Sulz in the Austrian state of Burgenland, no one would have thought that her hometown situated on 228 metres above sea level would bring out an Olympic Snowboard Champion.
But when her three brothers and Julia got snowboards for Christmas back in 1995, her path was paved. “I want to become a professional snowboarder”, she said at the age of eight. Ever heard about Grisu the little Dragon who wanted to become a firefighter? Well, it's a similar story.
But what may sound like some childish phantasy was a dream many of Julia's friends shared back in the days. And as all of their parents did support their kids dreams, the whole gang jumped in an old Opel bus and hit the slopes 'nearby'.
If you need another comparison take Cool Runnings: eight kids from the lowlands and their goal of becoming professional winter sport athletes.
But a few years later, one date will change her live. It's November, 11, 2000. The snowboard clique has been driving 431 kilometres from Sulz to Kaprun for a glacier training session. The snow conditions are good, everybody of Team Burgenland is ready to hit the slopes.
While waiting for the train to go up, Julia and her brother Georg are having a discussion of wether using the gondola instead of queueing up. After a few words have shared, Julia gives up and follows her brother. It was a decision which simply saved her life.
When both get out at top of the mountains, the notice fire smoke coming out of the tunnel tube. 155 people are dead including all of her friends from Burgenland's snowboard squad. Only Julia and Georg survived.
“I went through everything everybody has to got through who lost beloved ones at a catastrophe – there was shock, anger, pain and despair. I cried a lot but I couldn't talk about my feelings. I didn't want to snowboard anymore,” Dujmovits recalls the worst time she had to go through being only 13 years old.
But with time being a great healer, the exceptional talent straps back in weeks later. “I had the feeling that I owed it my friends.”
With weeks, months and years passing by and thanks to the love for her sport, Julia gains back high spirits and becomes successful. She competes in her first Europa Cup in 2003, weeks later, she celebrates her debut on the World Cup tour. In 2006 she wins Junior World Championships Bronze in Korea twice (PGS and SBX) before she has to face some hard times again.
Various injuries (ankle fracture, torn ACL two times, broken collarbone) sideline her from action. It's a long list of set-backs and a lot of fighting to come back every time. “At some point I noticed that I had to change. Otherwise the sport would have broken me.”
When she missed the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver due to an injury, Dujmovits starts with Yoga, finds fortitude and transforms her painful experiences into positive energy. “If it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you” becomes her motto. That said, she takes high risks, starts her individual season preparations and discovers Maui as her personal spot to train for the winter.
Silver at the 2013 World Championships in Stoneham prove her right but the major event in Canada isn't the end of her road.
In February 2014, being a odds-on favourite for an Olympic medal, the vegetarian overcomes the shock of missing the PGS finals by winning the first ever PSL Gold in history. It's the first Snowboard Gold for her home country, the first for Burgenland in general.
With a vita like hers, there is still a lot to come.