Melanie Meilinger is the only Austrian moguls skier who will take part in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang (South Korea). She answered our questions about the Winter Olympics, her dreams and the importance of moguls in Austria.
Mogasi: You made the late change from alpine racing to moguls, how did it happen?
Melanie Meilinger: Up until 2010 I was an alpine ski racer. After my career ended, I decided to fulfill another childhood dream, so I went to Australia as a coach and trained a group in the Falls Creek Race Club. As the importance of moguls is much higher in Australia, I also taught moguls to prepare the athletes for moguls competitions. Falls Creek is a ski area where Austrians are happily seen a lot and due to this it got back to Austria that I taught moguls there. Upon my return, I received a letter of inquiry from the Austrian Ski Federation (ÖSV) asking whether I could imagine getting back into competitive skiing but in the freestyle discipline, moguls. At this time, they had begun building a team for the home World Championships 2015 in Kreischberg. Without hesitation, I agreed and went staight to Kitzsteinhorn for a training camp where I could better assess everything and since then the passion has captured me.
Mogasi: Through your participation in the Sierra Nevada World Championships and meeting the Olympic selection criteria, you have accomplished two big personal goals. Walt Disney said: “If you can dream it, you can do it”, what are goals that you dream of?
Melanie Meilinger: The next big goal that I dream about is that I ski the best run of my life at the next Olympic Games. Prior to this however, are still many smaller goals that will lead me, step by step, to my biggest dream so far. It is very important to have a goal to focus on to ensure that the hard work will pay off one day.
Mogasi: What is still missing to achieve this?
Melanie Meilinger: Since my sport isn’t the most important in Austria, I always have to find the best possible alternative to the optimal solution. The most ideal training conditions on snow, like those the other nations are able to use, I cannot afford to due to financial reasons as I have to finance the majority of my season myself. I have already missed a very important month training on perfect world cup track like they have in Perisher, Australia.
Melanie Meilinger: The Olympic Games mean a lot to me. At the beginning, it was hard for me to accept that my alpine racing career had to end. I never dreamed that I would get another chance in another sport. Since I am aware that I can achieve my previous goals in moguls, I work hard every day in order to fulfill them. Since the qualification for Pyeongchang, I have stepped it up another gear and I can see how close I am to my childhood dream.
Mogasi: How do you prepare for the Olympic Winter season?
Melanie Meilinger: My preparation for this season began at the end of the last one. An individualised combination of strength and conditioning, trampolining, water jumping, and on snow training form an important base for a long, intense competition season. As I am currently concentrating solely on the sport, we can plan our training very individually and on a short-term basis, should I encounter any difficulties, the upcoming training can then be adjusted to improve these weaknesses.
For a ski resort, a moguls competition would be a great opportunity to try something new that currently doesn’t exist in Austria … If the final is competed in at night under flood lights, a very special atmosphere emerges, which in my opinion allows for something great to be organised.
Mogasi: What is your stance on an application from Innsbruck for the Olympic Games?
Melanie Meilinger: I feel this event is very important for our country as we are a ski-nation with very good, readily available infrastructure. Even though I will definitely not be standing at the start as an athlete, I would like to be able to contribute somehow.
Melanie Meilinger: The fact that, 8 years after Margarita Marbler, there is finally another Austrian who will start in the moguls at the Olympic Games is very important for the sport. I hope this will help to further develop the sport.
Mogasi: Who are your coaches, how is the collaberation and how is the team compiled?
Melanie Meilinger: As there is no official team for mogul athletes in Austria, I have been training with Slovenian, Aleš Špan, since the end of last season. He knows the freestyle scene nearly too well and through his years of experience and numerous certifications he has a wide range of knowledge to offer. I am very happy with how we work together; I have come a long way over the last few months. The training is tailored to my needs and this is reflected in my progressed. In Aleš I have found a trainer who not only looks after my conditioning and snow training, but also doubles as a physiotherapist when needed. I cannot afford extra assistance for financial reasons.
I am a one-woman team, I am sometimes joined on training camps by younger athletes, but there goals are different to mine. Therefore, during winter it is just me and my coach on tour.
Mogasi: What do you do apart from skiing?
Melanie Meilinger: At the moment my main focus is on the Olympic Games, everything else is currently second to the sport. Between training camps I am at home so I do the chores that have accumulated, I spend time at home in Mühlbach am Hochkönig and enjoy the beautiful mountain world to recharge my batteries for the challenges that lie ahead.
The fact that 8 year after Margarita Marbler there is finally another Austrian who will start in the moguls at the Olympic Games is very important for the sport. I hope this will help to further develop the sport.
Mogasi: How many competition tracks are there here that you can train on?
Melanie Meilinger: At Kitzsteinhorn, there is a competition track built every year and other nations also turn up to train there. However, due to the current snow conditions on the glaciers, it is difficult for them to build something. In winter, between the competitions, there is no to build a course and fit in a training session. Therefore, I took advantage of the little time that remains to recover and recharge my batteries for the upcoming competitions. For a ski resort, a moguls competition would be a great opportunity to try something new which currently doesn’t exist in Austria. You can see everything from start to finish in a moguls competition; there is cool music and the spectators can experience everything up-close. If the final is competed in at night under floodlights, a very special atmosphere emerges, which in my opinion allows for something great to be organised.
Melanie Meilinger, 26, from Mühlbach am Hochkönig, already met the olympic selection criteria for moguls last winter in Thaiwoo (China). Through the crowdfuning platform ibelieveinyou athletes can be supported on their “Road to Korea”. Melanie will publish her project in the coming weeks.