In the air, Anna Gasser turns around her own axis. Two back flips. She lands, arms up. A few minutes later she is lying on the floor. The snowboarders run towards her, throw themselves at her, everyone wants to share the moment with her. A crowd of brightly colored jackets screaming, “Anna, Anna.”
Anna Gasser, 30 years old, Austrian, is not just any snowboarder. She’s the queen of women’s snowboarding. In her last games she won gold again. In the big air, her best discipline. What sounds like a fairground attraction is their sport: flying through the air over a ramp, pure thrills, tummy tingles guaranteed. But Gasser’s story is not just that of an Olympic champion. It is the story of a woman whose path inspires others – especially young women.
It wasn’t like that from the start. Gasser remembers how she used to snowboard to the big jumps in the beginning, as one of the few women in the park. She was laughed at, she says. In the expressions of the others she read: “What is she doing here in the snow park?”, she says on the phone. Gasser only started snowboarding at the age of 18. Before that: acrobatics, artistic gymnastics. Sports that were too regulated for her, rather be free to do her own thing.
In the last school years, Gasser missed school lessons, she had been snowboarding. After high school, she flew to Mammouth Mountain, America, to snowboard. An unusual career path, start late, believe in yourself and “get it”.
The woman who made the triple
Today she gets messages from women and men. A woman recently wrote to her that she had changed her job because of her. “Men send hearts, messages from women are usually more useful,” says Gasser. You would ask: Which snowboard should I buy? How do I practice this trick?
Anna Gasser has long since become one of the most influential athletes, she advertises for Red Bull, Milka and the snowboard brand Burton. She is a world star. Nevertheless, she is considered a true snowboarder within the scene. In the snow park in Zhangjikou, she gets on the bus with three other boarders, board under her arm, loose snowboard clothes. She just came from the slopestyle course, she says. “But we were kicked out,” says Gasser. In her spare time she snowboards with others from the scene.
Stubai Glacier, 2018. Anna Gasser drives off. She can still remember the tingling in her stomach to this day. She turned three times overhead. Landing. Her whole body trembled. She says she hasn’t been able to snowboard all day. What was she doing there? She was the first woman to land this jump.
As she drove down the mountain, the cell phone in her pocket vibrated. The clip of her had been online for a long time. She was tagged in posts in Romania, Australia or Poland. The woman in the black jacket was suddenly everywhere. A week later she was able to understand what that meant for her – and what a step it was for snowboarding.
But she didn’t really understand it until years later. When she was skiing at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, in the US. Others would have addressed her: “Oh, you’re the woman who did the triple.” A moment when she really understood what a career leap she had made there, she says. The triple: more important than any Olympic victory, than victories in the overall World Cup 2016/18, successes at the X Games or Olympic gold in 2018.
Anna Gasser and mental stress
In January in Laax, Switzerland, she sits at a long table with other female snowboarders, laughs, eats, and just looks like one of them. She’s the one other female snowboarders ask for advice. “Anna advised me to jump, but I didn’t do it,” says German snowboarder Annika Morgan in Switzerland. In Beijing, she flew tenth place in the Big Air on Tuesday. Gasser says: “Annika doesn’t worry too much, youthful lightness.”
It wasn’t always so easy for her. Before the competition in Pyeongchang, the 2018 Olympics, she slept badly and ate badly, says Gasser. At the time, the Austrian media predicted that Gasser would only go there to pick up the medal. “Anything but gold would be a loss.” Mental stress. After the competition, a huge burden fell off her.
At that time she knew: one small mistake, everything can be over. An enormous pressure. Today she doesn’t think about it: not about her injuries, not about the fear. “Mentally I’m much better in these games,” she says. You just want to enjoy. “Live!” says Gasser. Her sister would always say: “The way you live, I could never, without a schedule, spontaneously decide where to go.” But a lot of other women can imagine that.
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