Four-time world champion, three-time overall World Cup winner, silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics, Olympic bronze medal in Sochi; the list goes on. The Austrian alpine snowboarder Benjamin Karl can look back on an exciting career. He talks to Discover Germany about how it all started, his future aspirations, his love for winter and much more.
The 31-year-old snowboarder discovered his love for snow and the great outdoors when his mother – a ski instructor – put him on skis when he was only two. “I couldn’t talk back then but I wanted to ski all day long without eating or drinking breaks,” Karl laughs. “At the age of ten, I then wrote down my athletic goals in life: world champion, Olympic champion and the world’s fastest boarder. I did think about becoming a skier for a short while, but my heart was already beating for snowboarding.”
The love for winter
The determining factors for his decision to become a snowboarder were, and still are, the feeling of speed as well as the special feeling he gets when standing on a mountain ridge. “Up until today, these forces excite me. In autumn, when the first snowboarding day of the year is only one night away, I’m still so nervous that I can’t sleep,” Karl smiles. “I simply love winter. I will give you an example: it just snowed, you still enjoy a coffee in your warm living
room and then, after putting on warm clothes, you step outside. The clear air fills your lungs and you just feel unbelievably good. The snow crunches under your boots and you simply know that this day will be awesome. The feeling you get on the board later on in untouched deep powder snow or on the freshly prepared slope is the icing on the cake.”
Knowing what he wanted at an early age, Karl also took the appropriate measures to get the best possible training. This included choosing a school that would fit his snowboarding needs. We wanted to know if it was hard for him to combine school and professional snowboarding training: “My mother and my later mentor and sports teacher at the secondary sport school St. Pölten played a significant role with this. My mum let me grow up without many limits and restrictions and thus, she also let me choose the school myself. We knew that the boarding school in St. Pölten had Erik Wöll who had an own snowboard team and fostered talents. That’s how I made my decision. After all I wanted to become a snowboarder and wanted to go where I could get the best possible training.”
What Karl would learn in school was always of secondary importance for him, even when he switched to Schladming’s skiing school later on. “I wanted to only go there because of their athletic possibilities. Due to the early support from Erik and the perfect interplay of school and sport in Schladming, it was never hard for me to combine school and snowboarding.”
Through his ambition and the professional training he received, Karl quickly became a world-famous athlete. Besides winning the World Championship title in 2009, twice in 2011 and in 2013, he also won the overall World Cup for three times, as well as an Olympic silver medal in 2010 and an Olympic bronze medal in Sochi in 2014 for
parallel slalom. Despite this success, Karl still has more goals. “I want to become Olympic champion, the first snowboarder with five World Cup medals and I also want to win the overall World Cup a few more times. Sounds quite modest, doesn’t it?” he laughs.
Having grown up in Wilhelmsburg and Schladming, Karl now mostly lives in Lienz in East Tyrol with his family. “Home is Austria for me. Of course, I’m deeply rooted in Lower Austria and, of course, it is always something special to come home to Wilhelmsburg.” In his free time, Karl likes to mountain bike, take his motorcycle for a ride and to rock climb. To relax, he loves to spend time with his family. “Free time means doing absolutely nothing for me – no sport, no business. It’s great to have some time to do something with my family. It’s simply the best and most relaxing thing that I can imagine.”
“It feels amazing”
At the moment, Karl is preparing for the upcoming snowboarding season. We wanted to know how a normal day
in the preparation phase looks like for him. “It might sound boring, but it feels amazing,“ he says. Karl wakes up around 7am and has breakfast, then he goes to the service room where his boards are waiting for him. Now, the day can begin. “Hundreds of young ski racers try to be the first on the slope – it’s awesome to see this ambition and the twinkle in the eyes of the children,” says Karl. Karl usually spends three hours in the snow and then his team analyses everything to be able to further develop his skills. After that, he has a small nap and lunch to foster the regeneration before more running, balance training and a talk with his coach to further analyse his rides from the morning. “When I’m lucky, he doesn’t have much to say. After that – a short meeting, dinner, film and sleeping,” he
What can we expect from Karl this year? “I have cast my eyes on winning the overall World Cup and, of course, my fifth World Championship title at the World Cup in March in Sierra Nevada. I don’t directly expect to achieve these goals. After all, a goal is something that one would like to achieve.” Having achieved so much already at only 31 years old, we also wanted to know what wishes, dreams and plans Karl has for the future. “Because I already achieved so much, people often ask me how long I will continue to drive. That’s a bit annoying but I do believe that this isn’t a decision of the age but more of the success and, at the moment, I’m one of the most successful snowboarders in history. My overall goal is, however, to become THE most successful one,” he smiles.
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO: MARTIN LUGGER