Alpine skier Marco Büchel raced for Liechtenstein in six Olympic Winter Games between 1992 and 2010. Here, he reflects on his long and rewarding athletic career.
What the Games mean to me
I was proud to be a participant at each edition of the Olympic Games I competed in. The Games are the biggest thing for an athlete – first of all to go there, and second of all to win a medal. As an athlete, you want to be there and you want to be successful. At my first two Games, I was just pleased to be a part of it, but afterwards I was aiming for an Olympic medal. That was my biggest goal.
My first Games experience
My eyes and mouth were wide open. I was 20 years old and I was amazed by everything in Albertville. The most fascinating thing was the Opening Ceremony – marching into the stadium and getting to know so many people from different sports and National Olympic Committees (NOCs). It was like one huge family and that impression remained with me for all the Olympic Games to come. In those days, I was not a contender for a medal, but I was there to be a part of the Games and I was overwhelmed by everything happening around the Olympic events.
My favourite Olympic moment
The one moment that has stayed with me after all these Games was marching at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002 with the Liechtenstein flag. Being the flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony made me so proud. That moment will stick with me for the rest of my life. At home, I still have a picture of me carrying the flag. I like seeing that picture because, on the one hand it gives me chills, and on the other hand it makes me feel very warm. The most impressive Games I took part in, however, were the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994. These were such amazing Games. It was so cold but there were beautiful, bright blue skies every day. The participation of the crowd impressed me very, very much.
What it means to be a six-time Olympian
I’m still very proud that I’m a six-time Olympian. I’ve seen so many different things and been to all these exciting Games. My record [for the most editions of the Olympic Winter Games attended] got beaten by [Japanese ski jumper] Noriaki Kasai in Sochi, but being one of the record-holders for a couple of years filled me with pride. At his seventh Olympic Winter Games, aged 41, Kasai won two medals [individual silver and team bronze]. That is so impressive and that is why he is my winter Olympic hero. In order to make it to six Olympic Games, you need to be healthy, you need to have endurance, you need to be a top-class athlete and you need to appreciate the effort required. The Olympic Games are never a guarantee for any athlete.
Not winning an Olympic medal
It still hurts. There are two or three things I didn’t achieve in my career and the Olympic medal is the one thing I wanted so badly. At my first two Games, I was an Olympic participant, nothing more. The first time I had a chance at winning a medal was Nagano in 1998, but I made mistakes because I was so nervous. Salt Lake City [in 2002] came at a time when I had a bad year skiing. Four years later in Turin, I was one of the favourites, but I didn’t perform the way I wanted – I finished with a sixth and a seventh place. On the table at home there is still this piece missing. I’m not jealous of other guys having medals; I’m happy for them, but I wanted to have one too. I wanted to be an Olympic medallist more than anything.
The Games that had the biggest impact on me
The last Olympic Winter Games that I took part in were in Vancouver in 2010. I was 38 years old. As an athlete, you’re in a tunnel and the only thing that matters to you is your competition and performance. But when I was finished with my events in Vancouver, I stayed for three more days and went to see as many competitions from other sports as I could. It sunk in just how big the Olympic Games are; how great the experience is to be an athlete, and to watch others fulfil their dreams by winning medals and feeling these emotions. It changed my view of the Olympic Games forever. After my career, I was one of the Athlete Role Models for the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck. It brought me to the table with Jacques Rogge, Sergey Bubka and Frank Fredericks – all legends. It made me very humble.
The Olympic values
Excellence brings out the best of the best. Every athlete tries to achieve their peak performance at the Olympic Games because everyone wants to win an Olympic medal. Friendship is a big part of the Games too. You get to meet so many people – not just athletes, but also the volunteers. I’ve met so many volunteers who I’ve talked to and that is something really special about the Games. Friendships grow. Respect is also important. Respect for each other – not just athletes in your sport, but also for athletes in other sports. The credibility of the Olympic Games is the most important thing for the IOC, and Olympic Agenda 2020 is a big step towards that.
- Born: 4 November 1971 in Walenstadt, Switzerland
- Competed in six editions of the Olympic Winter Games from 1992 to 2010
- Flagbearer for Liechtenstein at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002
- 18 podium finishes and four victories in World Cup events, the last in 2008 at the age of 36
- 1999 silver medallist at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships
- Athlete Role Model at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games at Innsbruck in 2012