It has taken Switzerland’s Olympic skiing champion Sandro Viletta six years but he is finally beginning to understand the impact his Sochi 2014 combined victory had on an entire generation.
Of the six young Swiss skiers competing at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, one cites Viletta as the reason he took Alpine skiing seriously, another proudly asserts she had a photograph of him in her bedroom for years and a third can still remember the moment Viletta won gold.
“For sure it makes me feel good,” Viletta said after watching 17-year-old compatriot Amelie
Klopfenstein add women’s combined bronze to the Super-G title she won on Friday. “I am here to show them that I also started like them. I want to be a good idol for them.”
Seeing one of her heroes at the bottom of the Les Diablerets slope is just another in an increasingly long list of scarcely believable moments for Klopfenstein, who has gone from reserve skier to double YOG medal winner in the space of eight days.
“He’s such a big athlete for us,” she said. “I remember so clearly watching him at home win in Sochi, we were just so excited.”
Viletta is at Lausanne 2020 as both an Athlete Role Model and Silvano Gini’s strength and
conditioning coach. Despite having worked with him since last summer, the teenage Gini still seems shocked he has the Olympic champion on his team.
“I was there in La Punt [Viletta’s village] when he came home from Sochi, it was
amazing,” Gini said. “He showed me what is possible. Maybe one day I can follow him.”
Gini, who came 10th in the men’s combined on Saturday, knows that in order to do that he has to follow the strict regime Viletta has set him.
“He drives me so hard, the worst is the interval training,” Gini said. “But he’s really funny, which helps.”
In response Viletta says simply that he will give everything he can to make Gini and others successful.
“I like coaching, I have a lot of experience now that I want to give to the next generation,” the 33-year-old said. “If you can do something for the young athletes it’s so good.”
Hearing praise from these young athletes makes the modest Viletta reflect on how lucky he is.
“There are some days when someone says Olympic champion and you don’t realise it’s you then you remember that perfect day,” he said. “That is what is nice about the Olympic Games, it never ends.”