I got my first pair of skis from my aunt for my first birthday, in spring. Apparently, I walked in the garden the entire summer with skis on my feet and, when winter came, I was ready for skiing. I always loved skiing. For me, it was just natural. And somehow I just was racing in the World Cup, and I didn’t really realize how that happened, but it was fun.
There is a clear distinction between being a skier and being a professional skier. When you’re a kid, you just go skiing. When you arrive in a World Cup, or get to the professional level, somehow skiing becomes about so many other things. This was my biggest problem at the beginning of my career because it was just so much. I had all eyes on me. I started when I was 16 in the World Cup and I didn’t know how to handle everything. When I was 15, I was just skiing. One year later, the entire world had an opinion about me.
Being a champion means being a person who can show people a way to get better, to challenge yourself. I had strong parents and they helped me by telling me, “Do what you want, know what you want and fight for that.” I think the key is to have a great combination of everything: to fight, to train, to rest, to believe in yourself, to have great people around you, because alone you are not going anywhere. The mix makes the difference.
In 2016, for the first time I won the overall title in the World Cup. I was able to bring the globe back to Switzerland after more than 20 years. It was a really emotional moment because I had the feeling that all the people working with me had brought me there.
Coming to Sölden the season after that was quite a challenge because the week before the race I was putting myself under so much pressure. I thought, “OK, I have a title now, I am supposed to be better, what should I do?” The day before the race another racer told me, “Just ski.” I realized how strong our mind is because you can win everything just because your mind says you can, but you can lose everything just because you put yourself in trouble. Your mind is your worst enemy, or your mind is your best friend. Sölden was really a big challenge for me, but I’m thankful to have had the challenge because I’ve learned so much from it. Everything was easier after Sölden.
On my watch it’s engraved 22nd of October 2016. It’s the date I won Sölden. I saw the watch years before and I thought, “This watch will be for a special moment.” I had the feeling in Sölden that the watch had been waiting for me for months, for years. But it had to be the right moment. It was just the right moment to have something to remind me of that race, and the lesson I got that day.
I think it’s important to have milestones in your life and it’s not always the victories that change you. My dad taught me, “It’s the process that makes the difference, it’s not the result.” This watch, it’s the process. It reminds me of the person I was in the starting gate and the different person I was in the finish because I’ve learned something, and from those lessons you can change your life, you can get better and go further. So this watch does not remind me of only the victory. It reminds me of the feelings and of the entire story around Sölden. A victory is one day, and then it’s over. A lesson… it can help you your entire life.