Vincent Kriechmayr: Five things to know about Alpine skiing's king of speed
Kriechmayr is the reigning world champion in both super-G and downhill. From his links to an impressionist painter to his life on a farm, here are five things you may not have known about the Austrian Alpine star.
1 - Skiing is in his blood
When you grow up with a father who is a ski instructor, it stands to reason you'd have an early introduction to the slopes. In the case of Vincent Kriechmayr, that introduction took place in the winter sports resort of Obertauern in Austria's Radstädter Tauern mountains. As his father Heini explained during an interview with Fischer Sports, "The children went with us to Obertauern at Christmas. They then stayed in Obertauern from Christmas until school ended, so it was more or less a life on the road."
However, just being born into a sporting family, doesn't necessarily mean your talent will shine immediately. If the reminiscences of Kriechmayr's father are anything to go by, his young son's first forays into competitive skiing were anything but graceful.
"If I look at his first race, you can't even compare how he was then. He was 25 seconds behind and all over the place as well," he said.
Still, one thing that did become apparent, even from these early days, was the innate competitiveness of Kriechmayr, which his mother described with the words, "no matter what they played, he always wanted to win."
Now, at age 30, the winning spirit of Kriechmayr continues to show itself, as the Alpine skiing phenom sits at the pinnacle of his sport.
2 - He was named after a famous impressionist painter
Despite his father's love affair with skiing, Kriechmayr's name owes more to the art world than the world of sport.
When his mother, an art history teacher from Belgium, gave birth to twins, she named Kriechmayr after one of her favourite artists - the master Dutch impressionist, Vincent van Gogh. Kriechmayr's brother also received the name of a famous artist, this time the renaissance master Rafael, while his sister is named after the 18th Century Flemish painter, Maria Jacoba Ommeganck.
Nowadays, Kriechmayr leaves his artistry to the snow-covered mountains, on which he has made history. In early 2021 he became the first Austrian skier since Hermann Maier in 1999 to win gold medals in the downhill and super-G at a World Championships.
3 - He spends his free time back on the family farm
What do you imagine one of the greatest skiers in the world do in his downtime? Glamorous galas? High-octane motorsports?
In the case of Kriechmayr, he hotfoots it back to his family farm to help out his twin brother. When asked whether his siblings were jealous of the life he leads on the Alpine skiing circuit, Kriechmayr's answer was a resounding no.
"They are incredibly happy and the reverse is also true [for me]," he explained in an interview with dieoberoesterreicherin.at.
"I am very happy for my brother because he is so passionate about agriculture... There is no envy between us siblings, and this was also very important to our parents when raising us."
4 - He shies away from the spotlight
Away from the elite skiing circuit, Kriechmayr enjoys nothing better than the quiet life, choosing to put all his spare energies into honing his craft.
"I have few hobbies, because sport comes before everything for me," he said, revealing the type of dedication it takes to rise to the upper echelons of a sport.
And when presented with a choice between his own lifestyle and those of superstar footballers who live life in the public eye, Kriechmayr is crystal clear about which he would prefer.
"I'd never swap with Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo," he told sportnews.bz. "As world-famous as they are, they cannot move around unseen. That's why you can earn 100 million but I'm not jealous."
Peter Schröcksnadel, the former president of the Austrian winter sports federation, had this to say about the character of his Kriechmayr.
“Vince is very cool guy. He is relaxed, polite, a grounded man, an ordinary human.”
Still, Mr. Ordinary is the epitome of extraordinary when battling for wins on the slopes, where he is in no way adverse to taking risks in the pursuit of excellence.
"If my ski company comes and says, 'you'll be a second faster with these skis, but it will also be more dangerous' - I would always take them," he explained.
5 - He's fast... very fast
None of this would matter a jot if it wasn't for the fact that Kriechmayr is one of the fastest skiers on the elite circuit today.
In February 2021, Kriechmayr won both the downhill and Super-G gold medals at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo.
With his downhill win, he became only the third man in history, after Hermann Maier (1999) and Bode Miller (2005) to do the speed double in the same year.
"Hermann Maier is an Austrian legend and Bode Miller is a legend too, of course," Kriechmayr told FIS after his run.
"It was a really special race today, with bib number one it wasn't so easy and it looks like it was good enough for the victory today. An amazing race."
Now with the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on the horizon, Kriechmayr has the chance once again step onto the podium - this time at the most important skiing event of the year.
His aims for Beijing couldn't be simpler, as he told dieoberoesterreicherin.at. "My goal will be very clear to compete for medals. I will do my best and try to work on it as hard as possible."