25/02/2021DEWALT, Technical Partner of Cortina 2021
Four and a half million inhabitants and the pride of challenging nations infinitely larger than ours.
You shouldn’t be able to compete against Alpine giants, or the Americans, when you grew up in a country that fits in the palm of your hand and which doesn’t even have adequate tracks for training speed disciplines, and which barely has tracks suitable for slalom and super-G.
But we still do it.
The world of skiing is like the one of formula one: there is no mountain without history.
There is no track that is not unique, hated by some and loved by others.
They are all populated with legends and ghosts in equal measure.
Everyone remembers everything about all of them.
Each gate, each finish line, each snowy horizon has a shape of its own, which the athletes know, expect and fear.
It is the slopes that are the protagonist, not the skiers, who travel the planet in search of an excuse to show those who have remained on the sofa the beauty of the mountain, emerged from the sea thousands of kilometres from home.
Here, in Croatia, we do not have that kind of mountains, yet we put our skis on our backs and leave anyway, because no one equals the temper of our spirit.
The sense of belonging is so strong that is pushes us to work harder than others.
It seems like a trivial sentence.
Everyone says it, but we take it seriously and our goal is to work so hard that race day will seem like a day off.
So hard that the 2 minutes of racing will seem like the least tiring thing of the entire week.
Finally a day in which I will not struggle.
It is a shared feeling, like a common memory, that we all have and that we do not even need to tell each other about.
A memory of fatigue, of youth and of travel.
A memory of many kilometres travelled to go far.
An identical moment in the lives of the children we once were, that crosses the mind of all Croatian athletes and make them a community, which celebrates joys and exorcises defeats with the same sacredness.
I do it for me and at the same time I do it for everyone.
The thing I remember most about my first career podium, for example, is not the adrenaline or the finish line, or the joy of success, but the sorrow of not being able to carry my flag during the awards ceremony.
The ceremonial does not allow it, and did not allow it even in Japan, where I won my first race and where I ran off the podium as soon as I could, to wrap myself in the fabric of my flag and in the arms of my team.
To desire something with such passion, for yourself and for others, makes it almost mythical. It makes it almost religious.
For this reason, perhaps, when I had the mathematical certainty of having won the giant slalom of Naeba, I felt inside of me an inextricable mixture of joy and relief.
Because representing everyone is a burden and a responsibility.
A strongly felt purpose, more because of what you have done to get there, than what you do once you get there for real.
The past counts.
Its heroes build the future.
But, if there was ever a race that truly made me understand that I could make it, that I could find the right balance between the weight of love and the lightness needed to ski well, it was the giant slalom of Adelboden, which preceded the Japanese triumph by just over a month.
I was the underdog in that race.
The athlete nobody would bet their money on.
Perhaps not even other people’s money.
I started with the number 20 and no one, except my father, expected me to win.
Nobody, not even I.
But when I saw I had finished second, I knew that soon I would finally win a race.
I was certain, because in that instant I clearly perceived that I had broken a barrier, that I had broken an obstacle inside myself, and that I had understood something about myself and about skiing.
Before, I always asked myself a lot of questions before competitions.
After, I realized that I had to focus all my attention on the simple things and that until that day I had been my own worst enemy.
Because when you come from a small and proud country like mine, you are never alone when you go on stage.
You bring with you the desire of an entire people, to emerge and to be noticed.
Being the underdog is in our nature.
It is a mathematical fact and mathematics govern all things.
Because it sometimes encounters something that ignores its rules and pretends not to understand its laws.
Like our corner of the Earth, between two worlds, where proud men and women live, who have the audacity to compete with the great sporting nations of the world, deploying the misery of four and a half million people.
And without any logical possibility of winning.
Fortunately, they don’t know that.