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Aigner family's fortunes continue with growing medal count

By HE QI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-13 11:04
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Barbara Aigner and her guide Klara Sykora (left) and Veronika Aigner and her guide Elisabeth Aigner, all of Austria, celebrate after the Beijing Winter Paralympics women's vision-impaired slalom at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre on Saturday. AFP

Austrian para Alpine skier Veronika Aigner added to her family's hefty medal chest, winning another gold in Saturday's women's vision-impaired slalom race. Her elder sister, Elisabeth, was her sighted guide.

This is Veronika's second gold medal in as many Paralympic events at the National Alpine Skiing Centre in Beijing's Yanqing district. Veronika's younger sister, Barbara, claimed silver and bronze in these two races.

"It's very cool and we're so happy that we got a second gold medal and my sister Barbara got a silver medal," said 19-year-old Veronika. "I'm so proud of my sister (Elisabeth) that she guided me so fast from start to finish."

Barbara, who won bronze in her first Paralympic race on Friday in the vision-impaired giant slalom, said that it was "unbelievable", especially sharing the podium with her sisters.

"It's very special for me because it's not normal that the whole family is here and I can ski against and with them, so I am very proud of everybody," Barbara, 16, added.

The five siblings-dubbed Team Aigner-are all involved in skiing. Veronika and twins Barbara and Johannes have visual impairments, like their mother Petra. Elder sisters Elisabeth and Irmgard do not have visual impairments and have both served as Veronika's sighted guide.

Irmgard is not attending the Games as she is back in Austria taking care of the family farm.

Over the past eight days at the Games, the four siblings in the skiing family have claimed seven medals, including three gold.

Johannes, the girls' younger brother, has won four medals in four races, including gold in his first downhill race.

"We never thought it will be this way. We always hoped to get at least one medal here because after the world championships in Lillehammer (in January 2022) the chances were pretty good," Johannes said.

"It's definitely nice to have more medals, but there is no competition between the siblings.

"They are happy if I get a medal and we are happy as they are for us when they get a medal," he added.

What makes the event even more special is almost all the family is here, including the parents, which makes for one memorable family vacation.

"It's very cool but the parents were very stressed. Our mother was more nervous than the athletes. But she is very happy that the children all strive for the good race," said Elisabeth.

"I am really happy," dad Christian said. "We put so much work into the training and everything that we did finally pays off."

Petra added,"I am the proudest mum of all."

The Aigners grew up in Gloggnitz, a small town an hour's drive from Vienna. The town's proximity to the mountains and the parents' passion for Alpine skiing ensured that the children put their skis on at an early age.

"My older sister began skiing at the age of 6, and we all went to the same ski school," said Veronika, who first tried skiing at just 22 months old and started competing in Alpine skiing at the age of 9.

Barbara's guide Klara Sykora, who has trained with the Aigner family for four years, remarked upon the family's skiing gift.

"They learned it when at a very young age. And I think this is really the key point because everybody loves the sport so much and everybody fights for it, so I think this is the reason they are so good," Sykora said.

Although there's one more event left on Sunday, the family just wants to celebrate.

"Celebrating this with the whole family is awesome. Everybody is happy for you and you know that no matter what happens at the finish line they will wait for you and are there for you," said Barbara.

"We don't really have a lot of time for realizing and celebrating it, but this will come when we're at home. We're going to have a party, and we're going to celebrate every medal," Barbara added.

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