Martin Braxenthaler has been called the most successful mono-skier in the history of the Paralympic movement. 11 March, just days before the beginning of the 2010 Winter Paralympics was Martin's 38th birthday and I contacted him to wish him a happy birthday and good luck with the Paralympics. I took the opportunity to suggest an interview and Martin kindly accepted. Over the next days we did the interview below by email, while Martin was winning gold medals at the 2010 Winter Paralympics.
Gene: Martin, the 2010 Paralympics will be your fourth Paralympic Games! How is this one different than the others?
Martin: It is difficult to compare the various Paralympics games. They are always held in a different city, a different country and in a different culture. A positive for these games is the short distance from the Paralympic Village to the venue. In Nagano, for example, we always had to drive two hours to get to the venue.
Gene: How have the Paralympics changed since your first in 1998?
Martin: The sport is becoming more professional and recognized by the media. Every year there is more coverage and attention. In Nagano, for example, we only had a one hour TV show and look at the coverage now.
Gene: In 2007 you were awarded the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability. That must have been quite an honor. You received awards together with Roger Federer, Franz Beckenbauer and Serena Williams. How did you feel?
Martin: (smiling) Like one of the big wigs.
Gene: You have been called "the most successful mono-skier in the history of the Paralympic movement", by Laureus. Do you agree? What impact has this accomplishment had on your life?
Martin: Great success is often just measure by the colour of the medal. From this perspective, I guess I could be considered the most successful athlete. But success is about more than just medals, and so to being the most successful athlete overall- that’s for others to decide. The Laureus Award is of course the greatest award for athletes. That was a big honor.
Gene: Are you well known in your home town? Do you get asked for autographs and/or photos?
Martin: I don’t consider myself famous; I am just a successful and well-known athlete. Because of the media it is normal that the people recognize you and ask for autographs. But I enjoy it.
Gene: Is skiing your profession or do you have another job too?
Martin: Skiing definitely takes up most of my time. Outside of skiing I provide consultation to companies in the development and improvement of wheelchairs to make life easier for people with a disability.
Gene: What do you do when you are not skiing? How many hours per week and days per year does someone have to train in order to become a Paralympic Skier?
Martin: It is difficult to describe the training because every athlete trains in his or her own way. It is necessary though to train at least six days per week and several hours per day.
Gene: It is impressive that two years after your first monoski course you were a member of the German National Team. How was that possible? Were you an accomplished skier before your accident? Is it difficult to transition from regular skiing to Monoskiing?
Martin: I was an experienced skier before my accident and feel I may have had above average fitness and experience that helped with the transition. It would appear that I also had some talent in picking up Monoskiing. It is difficult to compare the two sports. The basics are the same but there are big differences between skiing and Monoskiing.
Gene: Tomorrow is the opening ceremony of the 2010 Paralympics? Are you nervous? Excited?
Martin: It is always exciting to be part of the Opening Ceremony. I’m nervous enough before the start of my races so it’d be a shame to let it affect my other experiences.
Gene: You won four gold medals in 2002 and three more in 2006! How do you think that Martin Braxenthaler of 2010 compares with Martin Braxenthaler of 2006?
Martin: I have four more years of experience that I can draw on.
Gene: Should we look for you in 2014 in Sochi ?
Martin: (smiling) maybe as a TV sports expert/commentator.
Gene: Who do you see as your biggest competition in 2010? Who would you bet on to win a medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics?
Martin: 10-12 athletes compete for gold, 10-17 for the medals. The rest of the athletes do not have enough experience yet to be in medal contention.
Gene: Who do you think are the skiers of the future? Who would you bet on to be strong in Sochi ?
Martin: The young, wild dedicated athletes.
Gene: What advice can you give someone who is just starting out skiing and is looking to be in the Paralympics one day?
Martin: Make yourself small, achievable goals and never lose sight of the big picture!
Gene: You have had a very exciting journey, including medals, awards and fame. What has been the biggest thrill?
Martin: The biggest thrill is always the last few minutes before the final run.
Gene: Is there an accomplishment you are striving for? Some goal you would still like to achieve?
Martin: I still have many big goals in life to achieve and my challenge it to achieve as many of them as possible.