What happened that year?
“I had done to basic military service in the armed forces, which was a change of direction. For the first time, I started training seriously and taking on challenges professionally in ski mountaineering, which I’d actually known since childhood. In 2013 I took part in my first national championships, and I did well in the individual junior category. Then I joined the national team, and I’m still there. It was a real turning point in my life”.
But you’re not short of passions. You’re an eclectic sportsman.
“That’s true. In the summer I do a lot of walking and cycle racing. Other hobbies of mine are trail running, mountaineering and paragliding. In the early years of my career, I managed to do a bit of everything; it was an effort to keep up. I officially became a professional ski mountaineer a couple of years ago in 2018, when I joined the army”.
If we asked you to tell us about two of your most important races, which would you choose?
“One of my best races was definitely the 2015 Mezzalama. It was an unforgettable experience in the highest mountains in Italy, surrounded by landscapes to die for: the quintessential ski mountaineering event. However, a race I’ll never forget was in Jiling, China. It was 2019, and I won Austria’s first World Cup”.
So we come to 2020. It was a strange year for you. You were slowed down by two injuries, you risked a lot. What happened?
“After a good start to the season, with eighth place in the sprint at Aussouis, in January I was still the national champion. Unfortunately in mid-January, I had a serious paragliding accident: as I was coming into the land I realised there was no wind, so I stalled and fell onto the frozen ground. I broke my right wrist and damaged three vertebrae. At first, I didn’t know if I’d be able to go on competing; my doctor told me I might be in a wheelchair. That really was a bad moment. But fortunately, by the summer I was back to excellent fitness and I was able to go on training retreats with my team. It’s still painful sometimes, but I count myself lucky”.
But sadly, there was another hitch soon afterwards. What happened?
“A broken ankle; I was running and I fell. When that happened I wasn’t yet sure whether I’d be in shape to start the season. But I gritted my teeth and managed to come sixth in the World Cup in Ponte di Legno, Tonale. In the sprint I came ninth: fantastic results after such a challenging time; I’m sure I’m on the right track now”.
Goals for this season?
“This season I’m going to try to recover and grow mentally. Another goal is definitely the world championships, where I’ll focus on the sprint again. But not this season; I think I have to leave that ambition for next year. My greatest desire is to win another world cup for my national team”.
What does the future hold for Daniel?
“In the meantime, I want to stay focused on ski mountaineering; I’m not thinking of stopping yet. I want to go on as long as possible. I love moving in the mountains every day, and I can’t imagine any other life at the moment. I don’t have any definite plans for my future yet, but I think I’ll stay loyal to sports. I’d like to be a trainer or something; life is full of surprises”.
Photo credits: Martina Valmassoi