Felix Neureuther on Alberto Tomba, his career, and the future
Felix, fate has pitted you against Marcel Hirscher, one of the best racers of all time. Has he been a key factor in spurring you on? Or would you have preferred life without Marcel?
I am very grateful that I was able to race against him. Without him I would never have reached my current level. And to beat him more often, all I really had to do was ski faster than him. If you were faster than Marcel, then you knew without a doubt that you’d really earned your victory.
With 13 World Cup victories to your name, you are Germany’s most successful ski racer. Are you satisfied with your achievements? Or hungry for more?
My 13 World Cup victories aren’t really that amazing. Many racers achieve more. I should have had more wins, and I’m aware of that. However, I’m still satisfied. I continue to live my dream of being a professional ski racer. It’s something many people dream of. Also, it’s not the number of victories that matters. In 20 or 30 years’ time, I won’t think I’m this amazing guy because I won a certain number of races.
So what does matter?
It’s about the special moments in life. I can see it with my parents. When they meet old colleagues, it’s completely irrelevant who won what. Everyone is equal. They are all former ski racers who become helpless with laughter when they share their stories from back in the day.
Your career will end one day. What will you turn your hand to then?
My foundation for motivating kids to get more exercise is very important to me. As an athlete, you can do a lot not just for yourself, but others too. It’s not about World Cup victories. It’s about what you do for others.
The same way Alberto Tomba did a lot for you?
He was my big idol and gave me a lot of motivation and energy.
And – rumor has it – a chewing gum, which you refused to get rid of...
That was in my dad’s car when he drove Alberto to the airport. I was a very small boy and could only speak German, but we still managed to communicate. He fooled around during the whole drive, it was hilarious. And at the end, he gave me this chewing gum. Alberto Tomba was my hero. It’s thanks to him that I know how important it is for kids to have role models in order to set themselves goals – and achieve them one day.