In 26 years, Anna Fenninger has won just about anything that can be won in alpine ski racing. She is an Olympic champion, world champion, overall World Cup winner, was named Austrian Sportswoman of the Year three times and is also currently nominated as Laureus Sportswoman of the Year. She spoke to Discover Germany about her way to the top, the comeback after her heavy fall in 2015, her own watch collection and her dedication to saving cheetahs.

Born in Hallein, Anna Fenninger was raised in the village of Adnet and her path to becoming a professional ski rac-er was paved at an early stage. At the age of three, she stood on skis for the first time and at ten she joined the ski secondary school in Bad Gastein. “From that point on, I wanted to make skiing my profession. Becoming a skier has al-ways been my biggest wish,” she smiles. As the school in Bad Gastein is a com-bined hotel management and ski school, we wanted to know whether it was hard for her to go to school while also prac-tising skiing. She explains: “It was indeed a challenge but Austria has great institu-tions that support you like my school. Of course attending a boarding school isn’t easy but I realised very early on that I wanted to make the leap and had to real-ly put my foot down to spare myself the double pressure of working and training.”

Anna Fenninger’s hard work and dedica-tion has definitely paid off. Between 2002 and 2004, she was crowned the Austrian school champion six times and in 2005 she won four gold and two silver med-als at the World Youth Championships. In 2006 and 2007 she won the overall rank-ing of the European Cup twice and she made her debut in the World Cup in Levi. Over the years her focus has changed to quicker events, such as giant slalom, Super-G and downhill, but she still does slalom racing.

Major victories include winning the gold medal in the Super-Combination at the 2011 World Championship in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, winning the Overall World Cup in 2014/2015 and 2013/2014 or winning the Giant Sla-lom World Cup in 2014/2015 and also in 2013/2014. Last but not least, Anna Fenninger can call herself three-time World Champion and won gold medals at the Vail/Beaver Creek World Cham-pionships in 2015 and gold medals at the Olympic Games in Sotschi in 2014. “The latter is also my personal high-light – that was the real breakthrough. I felt like I had achieved everything that I wished for. It freed me so much that I was able to achieve my next goals: winning the Overall World Cup and clinching the World Championship,” she explains.

Playing with centrifugal forces
A normal day in Anna’s preparation phase starts at 9am. “We normally do three hours of strength training, ergometer units and fast walking on the treadmill. A special emphasis is also put on core stability and leg stability. At 12, the lunch break starts and around 1.30pm a regenerative session with massages or lymph drain-ages follows. Then from 3pm onwards, I either do another endurance session, at-tend PR, sponsor or press appointments or I have leisure time,” Anna explains. With such a tight schedule, we want to know how the athlete keeps motivated. She answers: “It’s simple – by reminding myself that I am able to do what I love the most.” She adds: “There are so many things I love about skiing but the sport in itself is a main factor. One needs so many skills to be good at it: sensitivity, a certain strength, muscular endurance and a feel for snow and material. Of course, there is also this exceptional feeling one gets when accomplishing the perfect carving swing or the play with the cen-trifugal forces. On skis, you feel tremen-dously free, you can be in nature, chose your own way and go to the limit. That’s  pure adrenaline.”

In 2015, Anna Fenninger had to invol-untarily pause her career. While training for the World Cup in Sölden, she crashed and severely injured her right knee. A torn ligament, severed patella tendon and torn collateral ligament meant the end of the season for her. “At the start it was a real shock for me – primarily because of the injury’s severity but then I quickly accept-ed it. The good thing was that my family and team were there for me from the very start. In this high-risk kind of sport, we push the thought of getting injured our-selves to the back of our minds. But now that it happened, you have to be able to deal with the situation as quickly as pos-sible.” Having had to go through various operations and subsequent physiother-apy, Anna is luckily able to slowly start training again. “I had to entirely relearn controlling my muscles. Now I try to bring my muscular corset back to where it was before the injury. I will do everything for my comeback and ski training is planned for August if everything goes to plan.”

Surfing in Maui and saving cheetahs
Anna Fenninger is not only a dedicated ski racer. She loves to hike through the moun-tains, goes surfing on Maui or enjoys her home country. “I live in Schladming and know that us Austrians are quite lucky about how beautiful it is here. I travelled a lot already but I simply love the moun-tains here. Home is very important to me but there are a lot of ‘dahoams’ for me – home is where the people are that I need and love.”

When Anna is not on her skis or enjoys time in nature, she acts as an ambassador for the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CFF). “Cheetahs are wonderful animals but sad-ly are an endangered species which need help. I can also identify with them because they’re the quickest animals on earth that can divide their strengths really well. They know exactly when it’s worth to hunt and then they give everything,” she smiles. Furthermore, Anna gets sponsored by the likes of Milka or Rauch and has designed her own jeans collection alongside none other than Pepe Jeans. Just recently, she has also designed an own watch collection at Jacques Lemans, which was partly in-spired by cheetah prints.

Having achieved a great deal at the young age of 26, we wanted to know her future plans. “I don’t have any plans or expec-tations but I wish that I can continue my sports career like I did before the crash. My injury has made me dream again as regards to skiing. Before the injury this was hard sometimes because the chal-lenge was to stay at the top as I was able to achieve so much already. Therefore, my dream is that everything goes back to normal in an athletic sense and that I can continue to be as successful. And then, someday, I would also like my own  family too.”
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF  I  PHOTOS: THOMAS KETTNER FOR JACQUES LEMANS  |  GEPA PICTURES