Special Feature


Revolutionary Alpine Skier
Keeps Japan on Its Toes

Alpine Skier

Roman Rabl

Athlete Profile

Born in Tirol, Austria in 1991. Began para-alpine skiing after spinal cord injury in 2007 at age 17. First World Cup victory in 2013. Won Bronze medals at the Sochi Paralympics in sitting Slalom, Giant Slalom and Supercombined events (LW12-1)

Exhibited Abilities at First Paralympic Games Speeding Down Hills with Sharp Intensity

Roman Rabl moves energetically down frozen, snowy slopes. He skis aggressively, seemingly roughly at times, but he controls his bucking mono-ski with accomplished physical ability and technique, racing down to the finish line. While there is severe competition unfolding in the men’s alpine ski sitting category, one of the skiers exhibiting a strong presence is Rabl. At the Sochi Paralympics in 2014, he proved his stuff by taking home Bronze medals in three of the five events he entered, and this despite Sochi being his first Paralympic Games.
He is also a revolutionary. To explain this, there is a need to look at the relationship between his home country of Austria and skiing.
Skiing, especially alpine skiing, is pretty much a national sport in Austria. It is also a major industry in this country. There are many world-famous ski resorts in Austria as well as numerous leading ski-related companies. The alpine kingdom also turns out a great many star athletes. This tradition and pride in skiing also thrive in para-alpine skiing. Austria has generated many Paralympic medalists, and mono-skis made in this country were a global standard for many years. Austrian Paralympic skiers would win using Austrian mono- or two-ski sit skis. Or, at least that seemed to be the condition for fulfilling the pride of this alpine kingdom.
However, Rabl converted to mono-skis made in Japan and honed his skills to match their performance and rose to become a global top-level athlete.
“I wanted to ski like (Taiki) Morii and (Takeshi) Suzuki.”
he said.In fact, Rabl’s skiing-style is quite different from that of other Austrian skiers. You can see that he thoroughly studied the behavior of Japanese mono-skis and the techniques of Japanese para-alpine athletes. On top of that, he has added on original elements to his mono-skis, such as in its suspension linkage (an important component that maintains contact with the snow by transmitting the skier‘s power while serving as a shock absorber) and seat cowling (leg cover worn by skiers to improve aerodynamics), evolving them further.

Finished the 2015-2016 Season Second Overall Only to Taiki Morii

Rabl became a formidable foe in the blink of an eye. While Japanese para-alpine skiers consider him a threat, they also respect him as a good fellow athlete and opponent.
Taiki Morii, one of Japan’s central skiers, said, “Rabl always skis with his full might, and it feels refreshing to watch him.”
Morii, now one of the clever veterans who skis steadily under any conditions, used to be a major risk-taker, pursuing the speed that contained danger. Some of Rabl’s skiing is rough cut, and perhaps Morii cannot help but be reminded of himself in his youth.
Morii captured the overall men’s sitting title in the 2015-2016 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup , while Rabl came in second. Morii also clinched two technical events. However, Rabl achieved better records than Japanese athletes in the speed-oriented alpine skiing events. Rabl is in a sports classification with lighter impairment.Able to use his abdominal muscles, his style displays the latest trend in men’s sitting skiing. The limits of the overall category are being stretched, inspired by Rabl’s growth as an athlete.
Of particular note will be his performance at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympics. He achieved the amazing feat of capturing three Bronze medals at his first Paralympics, nothing easy for a first-timer. Four years will have passed since then when he rises to this major global stage for the second time. We are all looking forward to his performance on the slopes of South Korea.
He said, “Five Gold medals? Maybe that’s too high of a goal! At any rate, I want to ski my best and fastest in Pyeongchang. It would be great if that resulted in a Gold medal win!”
Along with Japanese Paralympians, be sure to take note of Rabl’s awesome and aggressive skiing at the Pyeongchang Paralympics—he will be the biggest rival for the Japanese para-alpine skiers!

text&photos by Isao Horikiri


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