VAIL — Among the skiing greats congregated at this weekend’s American Ski Classic in Vail, few have had the opportunity to represent two different countries, and even fewer have continued their skiing careers by representing the up-and-coming greats of this generation.
Except for Austria’s Kilian Albrecht, of course. The slalom specialist represented Austria in the 2002 Olympics and Bulgaria at the 2010 Olympics, narrowly missing out on the podium in 2010. Since retiring, he’s made a name for himself in sports management, with perhaps his highest profile client being Eagle-Vail Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin.
We caught up with Albrecht as Vail’s pro/amateur race event kicked off to chat about his ski racing career, why he visits Vail and what it’s like to represent a teen skiing sensation.
Vail Daily: Tell us a little about your skiing career. How did you end up skiing for two different countries?
Kilian Albrecht: Well, I started as a kid when I was 3 years old. Everyone in Austria skis, and I just followed my siblings every day after school. By the time I was 21, I was on the national A team.
I had around 20 top 10s for Austria, was fourth at the Salt Lake (Olympic) Games and had podiums on World Cup circuit.
When I was 32, still being in the top 30 in the world, the Austrians kicked me off the team the second time (he had been dropped from the Austrian team twice amid an unsuccessful bid to represent the United Arab Emirates), and I decided that no one marries a woman three times. So, I looked for another country to represent.
The Bulgarians gave me (a passport), but I basically lost all my points and had to start all over again with (the lowest) bib numbers.
It was hard to get back to the top again from the back of the pack, plus I had maybe a tenth of the budget that some of my competitors had, but I probably learned the most in my life at that time, and it was great fun skiing independent.
VD: What do you consider the greatest accomplishment in your career?
KA: Missing an (Olympic) medal by only four-hundredths of a second was probably the most frustrating thing, but I got that Olympic diploma, and maybe that’s the most I have accomplished
VD: What was your most memorable race?
KA: My second place in Kitzbuhel (Austria) was one of the most prestigious races. I had no good results before that in that year, switched ski brands just three weeks prior and it was the only race left for me to qualify for the Games. It was basically all in, and I got on the podium that race.
VD: Since retiring, have you taken up any new sports?
KA: I still try to be fit and work out regularly, but I only ski a few days a year.
VD: You are Mikaela Shiffrin’s agent. How did that start?
KA: I met her family in 2003 and 2009 while training. After she made Team USA, I saw her, and was mesmerized. She was only 14 years old and skied like an 18 year old. I then offered them to help whenever they needed.
I did not know if I wanted to go down the path to be an agent, but I once told Mikaela that I think I have learned a lot (good and bad), and I should probably pass that onto other athletes. That’s how it started.
VD: How did it feel to see her win gold at the Olympics?
KA: To see her win the gold in Schladming, plus two globes and the gold medal in Sochi was amazing, and to share that with her family and team was great.
Sochi was especially amazing. She had so much pressure on her that day and handled it like a true champion. I was blown away by how she hammered that second run.
Her family is the best support she can have, and it’s a huge help for me as well to help minimize all the distractions and to keep pace with all that’s going on. It’s been an amazing ride the last three years and really interesting to see that from the inside. Seeing the sport from a different view, you learn new things every day.
VD: What are you looking forward to at the American Ski Classic, and what makes it a fun event?
KA: I am looking forward to it. It’s my fourth time, and it’s always fun to meet up again with all the legends and just have a good time at this great event. The people that organize it, together with the legends and audience make it fun. It’s just a good spirit out there.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at email@example.com.