Aksel Lund Svindal had one of the most unique careers in Alpine Skiing. He went through podiums, injuries and medals. His success inspired many of the skiers now taking part in the World Cup. After his debut in 2000, he retired in 2019, after twenty years of incredible achievements. Today, Svindal is an entrepreneur with interests in many fields, but he’ll never forget his real passion.
How is your life after a long and successful career?
I have to say that it’s kind of a busy life. I like challenges and, when you like challenges, you like to get involved with projects and things with which you can build and achieve [something]. Maybe I said “yes” to too many projects and made life busier. At the same time, things are getting exciting and I am now learning new ideas and processes. Like many athletes, I have no working experience outside my sport, and I don’t have a big education, having stopped school when I was nineteen. So I need to learn from the smart people I am working with. I am on projects in real estate, including a ski resort in the mountains. I am also working on technology projects and with start-ups, contributing to them from my sports background. Let’s not forget that athletes have something to contribute, even if they don’t have a big education. I have the goal to dedicate more time in this coming future to sports activities. I miss being outside in the mountains, skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. I’ll definitely try to get back to this.
What is your biggest achievement in your skiing career?
I’m not sure, but there are definitely a couple of things that I’m proud of. As of today, I am very proud of my first season alone. When I joined the World Cup Team, I was skiing with my idols [Kjetil Andre] Aamodt and [Lasse] Kjus. They were still skiing and big stars. At the time, I was only working in the background, looking at them and trying to learn as much as possible for the first three years. Then they retired, and Norway was a small team in the days. I was basically alone for the Super G and Downhill. Only then did I manage to step up, be consistent and fight for both podiums and titles. I was able to establish Norway Team at the time. When more people came in, I am proud of having been able to build a proper team culture. We had great cooperation and made things happen. Of course, I am very proud of all the success in the World Cup and at the Olympics, especially when I had the last chance to win the gold in the Downhill before retiring.
What do you miss most of your sports career?
I definitely miss a lot my team and the training. Of course, the big events are a huge deal of fun, but this is not what I miss in my daily life. Travelling with the team to New Zealand or to Passo Stelvio for six weeks of training is really what I miss. The team spirit that you feel when travelling together can not be replicated. You have to train hard, prepare yourself and ski run after run to improve and get better. Doing this as a team with people that you really like is the coolest feeling. Also, we were very lucky to practice our sport in the mountains, surrounded by some beautiful nature.
What do you think of the recent Olympics Games?
[My thoughts] are a bit two-sided. I am not very enthusiastic about the way in which the Olympic Games have been organised because there’s a lot of criticism around it. And for a very good reason. [It was upsetting to become aware of], with all the things going on in the World, the news that Russia had probably made a deal with China to attack Ukraine, not before the Games were over. We saw a similar situation in Sochi when they [the Russians] did not attack Crimea before the games were over, meaning that all the criticism that we hear is correct. It [the Olympics] was used in a political way and it is not good. It is just horrible. But the fact that sport is used to camouflage actions and improve the image of a country is not acceptable. But, on the other side, I also have criticism for the nations that only point their fingers. Italy is now hosting the next Winter Games, and it is very important to get back the Olympics to a country where they have existing infrastructures that can be used and where the Games are for the people, not to clean the image of a nation. I am very thankful that Italy is hosting the next edition. Norway, Germany, Switzerland and Austria had the chance but said no to the Olympics and still, [they] point their fingers and act negatively to countries hosting the games. If you’re behaving in such a negative way, we should ask if the Games should be cancelled forever. Hopefully, all these nations with a long history in Winter sports will pick this up and contribute to the possibility of hosting the Games in the way they should be hosted.
What do you think of the athletes competing now in the World Cup?
I am impressed with all the athletes in all the sports. You can clearly see an evolution and the level is improving. We see it in the World Cup as well. There are athletes performing at a very high level. [Marco] Odermatt this year is really standing out. The way in which this young technical skier comes down very fast is something that we haven’t seen in many years. I still see many races, if not all, and I am so impressed. Athletes are developing, materials are developing, technologies are developing. So it is impressive to see the level of performance.
How do you see the future of Alpine Skiing?
I am very optimistic about the future of Alpine Skiing because now I look at it from a “tourist” point of view, as fans and vacation skiers. It is such a beautiful activity, you can do it with friends and family. It does not depend on your skills level. Everyone can ski down at their own pace. Maybe, only twenty per cent of the time consists in going down the mountain, and everyone can join in. The fun is doing the sport together. Add to this the fact that you do this activity in the most beautiful nature. Can you think of any other sport that can be done by three different generations, from the grandad to the grandchildren? I’ve been in this my whole life and I can see how important it is for families. I can guarantee you that our sport will live on for a long time.
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