#YOGJourney: Benjamin Maier chases speed and success on the World Cup Bobsleigh Tour
Navigating daunting curves at speeds in excess of 140km per hour, Austrian bobsleigh driver Benjamin Maier has the right stuff to make his mark in the exhilarating winter sport, seven years after winning a silver medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Innsbruck 2012.
Possessing the tools, experience and ability, Austrian bobsleigh pilot Benjamin Maier is on track for a long and prosperous career in his sport. Just 23, he has already competed at two Olympic Winter Games, and one of his career highlights was winning a silver medal, along with team-mate Robert Ofensberger, on home ice at the Winter YOG Innsbruck 2012.
Maier also performed admirably at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, driving his Austrian bobsleigh teams to a pair of top-10 finishes in the two- and four-man events.
He is not slowing down. Despite being hampered by a nagging hamstring injury, Maier opened this winter season with a third-place finish in a two-man race in Sigulda (Latvia).
Confident and determined, the Austrian bobsledder should only improve with more experience navigating and masterminding the tricky, snaking curves of the world’s varying bobsleigh tracks.
What are the ingredients to being a successful bobsleigh driver?
“I’m not sure if everyone on tour would agree with me, but I like to divide it into thirds. A third of your result is your push. Another third is the equipment that you have, and the final third is your driving ability. I would say that most of the teams have two of those, but to be on top you have to be good in all three.”
How do you improve your driving skills?
“You have to understand the mechanics – if you understand why you steer at a certain point and how this affects the line of the sled, then that’s a big step in understanding how to drive. A lot of it is experience through our training runs. When you return to a track, you should be able to jump right in and know what tricky parts to look out for, so experience is very important.”
How special was winning the YOG silver medal in your home country?
“It was a ridiculously good feeling. To have an Olympic experience with people your age and the entire feeling of the Olympics was really cool. It was great to see so many good athletes from other sports there. I had some pressure back then, but not like nowadays having sponsors and everyone expecting me to have good results. Winning a medal was really an amazing experience.”
What was the two-man bobsleigh competition like?
“I was a little bit nervous and made a huge mistake at the start of my second run when I jumped in – the sled tilted to the side and we hit the wall before corner one. After the race, my brakeman and I were thinking what would have happened had we not hit the wall. Still, a silver medal is pretty awesome.”
How did the Innsbruck 2012 experience prepare you for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014?
I think every big race helps you a lot for the next one. You’ve been in a spot where you’ve had pressure. For me, having made a mistake at the YOG, I worked with my sports psychologist to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. I was still nervous in Sochi, but not as much as I thought I would be. Having been at the YOG, we were better prepared.
Were you satisfied with your two top-10 results in PyeongChang?
We were really happy with the seventh- and eighth-place performances. We took an entirely different approach to the competition than in Sochi. We had a team with Olympic experience, so we were not there to watch other races or sightsee. We were there to have a really good performance, and I think we did a pretty good job.
Are you excited to compete at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and can you win a medal?
Our team is still young and improving. I’ll be 27 at the time of the Games. Having [competed at] two Olympic Winter Games and the YOG, I should be well prepared. In 2014, we were 21st and 22nd. In 2018, we were seventh and eighth. I am not a genius in maths, but if my calculation is right, we should be somewhere in the medals.