Ivan Boyanov was a Young Reporter for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and will be once again reporting on Lillehammer 2016. In the run-up to the Games, he caught up with fellow Bulgarian Valentin Miladinov, who is aiming for a top spot in snowboarding at the second edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
By Ivan Boyanov, IOC Young Reporter, Bulgaria
The first stop on a long longed-for journey for one of Bulgaria’s biggest talents in snowboarding, Valentin Miladinov, is the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer. Born and raised in a small mountain city near Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, Samokov, the 16 year-old has been dreaming big for the last four years. He has been dreaming big since the moment he first went snowboarding.
“Everyone in my city goes skiing from an early age, and so did I. When I was 11, a friend of mine offered to take me snowboarding. Since that moment, I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s hard to explain, as it just becomes part of you.”
After just three years, the national team coaches recognised Valentin’s talent, and he started representing Bulgaria at different local and international competitions. Even at such an early age, the snowboarder was sure that this sport would take a major part of his life in the future.
“I feel amazing when I am in the mountains. The snow, nature, it’s unique. It helps me clean my head of all negative thoughts. It’s just my thing. I dream that I will get better and that snowboarding turns into a full time job for me in the future.”
Miladinov started competing abroad just a year prior to the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer. At the Junior World Championship in China, he finished 31st, which assured him his spot at the Games. It was a tough winter for the teenager, but he isn’t complaining.
“Although during the winter I’m far away from my family and my friends, I’ve never had problems dealing with it. I know it’s part of the game. It wasn’t an easy season for me because I started competing in a new discipline (border cross) and I wasn’t home most of the time, but I think I did well and I was happy with my results.”
With just a few months left until the beginning of the second Winter Youth Olympic Games, Miladinov admits that competing in Lillehammer will be the greatest challenge in his life so far.
“I know it’s going to be hard, but this is a great opportunity for me to show the world my skills. I want to win a medal in Lillehammer. This is my goal at every competition I participate in.”
As ambitious as achieving his Lillehammer goal might seem, Miladinov does not stop visualising there.
“I see myself as a European and World Champion in the future. I really want to go to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. This would be a dream come true.”
Miladinov manages to combine snowboarding and school, although he admits it’s hard.
“When I’m not training, I deal with school and I help my parents with the house work. Of course, I also try to find time for other activities – like going out with my friends or skateboarding, which I really love.”
Easily dealing with stress and anxiety, Valentin has every chance of becoming a great athlete in the future.
“To be honest, I don’t feel any pressure from the fact that I’m the only Bulgarian representative who will participate in the border cross competition in Lillehammer. I will give my best and try to make my country proud.”
Valentin Miladinov’s sports career has been skyrocketing over the past few years. And the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer can provide him with a golden opportunity to launch even higher. Whether he will win a medal or not, only time will show. But one thing is sure: there is a young Bulgarian talent rising on the horizon, who has both the ability and the hunger to reach the top.