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Best time on the glacier

Second home Zillertal

Born in Kenya, raised in Austria, on her way to the top of the world in the snows of Hintertux. The story from Sabrina Simader's heart.

It's all about freedom. And adrenaline. And that little rascal in your head who loves to see the looks of disbelief and amazement on people‘s faces: "Nobody expects to see an African woman on skis, and that gives me a little bit of inspiration when I can surprise people", says Sabrina Simader, not trying to hide her smile. Sabrina, 21, who was born in Kilifi, Kenya, has long been much more than just half Austrian. When she was three years young, she moved with her mother to St. Johann am Wimberg in the Mühlviertel, and for the last ten years she has been living in Ennstal.

But the trio of freedom, adrenaline and little rascal has kept her Kenyan citizenship so far. Because even in her first Austrian winter, it was already impossible to get Sabrina, who was still called Wanjiku at that time and who was only baptised after arriving in her adopted country, of the pistes – she still gets this powerful feeling of freedom when on skis today. Because she's really into the adrenaline rush that she gets every time she stands at the starting gate. And because the gate to the 2017 World Ski Championships in St. Moritz and the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang was open to her as a Kenyan. Although she only placed above 30 in the super-G at these two major events – she was there. But it wasn't just that: Sabrina also made history by being the first female Kenyan to participate in the World Championship and Olympic Games in alpine skiing. And when she competed in giant slalom in Maribor on January 17, 2017, it was historic once again – she was the !rst female racer from Kenya in a World Championship race.

"An African woman on skis.
It really inspires me when I can
surprise people."

World Championship athlete Sabrina Simader

An Ambitious Goal

Not surprisingly, Sabrina Simader is the only member of her national ski association. The association had already been founded because cross-country skier Philip Boit became the first Kenyan to immortalise himself in the history books at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. The same year that Sabrina was born. But being first in the statistics is not enough for the ambitious young lady by any means: "I resist being treated as something exotic, but somehow I just am, and so I've accepted it with a strange mixed feeling," she says. But her objective is something else: "I want to be recognised as a competitive athlete and I'm working towards becoming a world-class ski racer." 

For four years now, she's been working away every summer at the Hintertux Glacier ski area: "My training here in the Zillertal has already helped me a lot. Jörg Tarmann, the course manager, always does a great job because he makes sure that I can train with other international teams. It's a good push." And so Zillertal has already become a little piece of home for the Upper Austrian-Styrian Kenyan: "I really love nature, and so to be able to go mountain running or hiking after training on the glacier, that's really something special in an amazing environment like this one", she raves.

Now Sabrina is looking forward to the World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo next year - and she intends to increase her World Cup entries. Because the two-time winner of FIS races wants to be among the top 30 in the world there: "I know I can do it." And as much as that little rascal in her headlikes to see the amazement on people's faces: Soon no one will be surprised anymore, because Sabrina intends to make headlines not because of her heritage, but because of her achievements. Then it's all just about freedom. And adrenaline.

Images: Christoph Johann and text: Wolfgang M. Gran
Zillertal magazine Winter 2020/21


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