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From the foothills of Germany’s Alps, a top skiier eyes glory for VN

Update: July, 16/2016 - 09:00
Champion skiier: Tan competing at the Deutscher Schüler Cup. Photo

Viet Nam News

Vietnamese-born Tan Nico Düsterfeld from Germany aspires to represent his birth country in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Nguyễn Thuỳ Linh reports.

At a glance, 15-year-old Tan Nico Düsterfeld may seem like your typical well-rounded, straight-A student: he played the violin for seven years, enjoys tennis and football and has a fascination for the arts.

However, it’s not so average to qualify for the Deutscher Schüler Cup - the most competitive youth game in Germany for skiing. When asked to share some of his other achievements, Tan replies calmly: “In the past few years, I scored first at a Swiss Ski Federation competition in Austria, third in the German Competition Allgäuer Skiverband, first in the Germany Team Geiger Cup, and second in the German Technical competition Allgäuer Skiverband.”

Tan was born in Hồ Chí Minh City, and was four months old when he moved to his new home in Oberjoch, a mountainous village in Bavaria, Germany.

For the homeland: Tan, who is fifteen this year, hopes to achieve his dream of representing Việt Nam in the Winter Olympics. Photo Angelika Blanz-Düsterfeld

“He was in an orphanage - his birth name was Nguyễn Việt Tân,” his mother reminisces, detailing the first time she cradled her son in her arms.

Depicting his first contact with the powdery mountains of Bavaria, Tan describes: “I was two and a half when I picked up my first skis on a family trip with parents. Perhaps I was in good hands because my mother, Angelika Düsterfeld, used to be a ski instructor and competed on the German National Ski team.”

Tan said his move to Bavaria played a large role in sparking his passion for skiing.

“When I’m racing down the mountain, I am surrounded by the beautiful landscape and it is just breathtaking,” he says. Bavaria, the largest state in southeast Germany, whose capital is Munich, is renowned for its mountainous terrain and alpine foothills. The Bavarian Alps is also home to the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany.

“My dream is to represent my country of origin, Việt Nam, in the upcoming Winter Olympics,” Tan says, beaming with pride. “Instead of joining the German team, I want to be the first to lead my birth country into the Winter Olympics.”

Competing in the Olympics will enable Tan to become one of the youngest athletes to be part of an international league of elite skiers. Scheduled to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2018 Winter Olympics has featured Alpine Skiing since 1936.

Snowy peaks: Tan (second from the right) with his teammates and coach, Dietmar Benedetti in Dolomites, Italy. Photo Angelika Blanz-Düsterfeld

Dietmar Benedetti, Tan’s ski coach, asserts that “one can call Tan absolutely unusual in movement and talent from what I have experienced over my 30-year career.”

With an Alpine Ski Coaching Licence from AMSI, Dietmar launched his coaching career at the Ski Club San Vigilio, home to world-class skiers like Alexander Ploner.

Highlighting his great anticipation for Tan to compete beyond Germany’s borders, Benedetti states in his letter of recommendation, “(Tan) shows the necessary athletic, motor and cognitive skills… to (reach his peak) in the coming years on an international level.”

Chronicling her son’s achievements so far, his mother, [Angelika] Düsterfeld, says, “He began training with local race coaches when he was six, and for two years, he was selected to be part of the Perspektivteam selection squad.

“Since 2011, he has been a member of my regional ski team, Allgäu ASV Regionalkader, and just this February, the team were victors of the Skiliga Bayern held in Lenggries in Bavaria. Tan placed first and second on a list of the best five new participants and the best ten classified participants of the competition, respectively.”

Alpine skiing is a dangerous sport characterised by fixed heel bindings, which place a great amount of force on the knees and lower leg. The giant slalom, a technical event which Tan specialises in, focuses on quick, sharp turns between sets of gates. For men, the vertical drop is 250-450 metres and averages about 55-75 gates per run. Overall, a professional racer will hit a speed of up to 40km/h in the slalom.

Four years ago, Tan suffered a compression fracture in his fifth thoracic vertebra - leaving him unable to ski for a year.

“I was in great sorrow,” his mother says. “I told him to quit, but because of his strong intention and will, he said that he would continue.”

“I’m proud of him every single day, but I will always remember how determined and optimistic he was in that moment,” she says.

As Tan listens to his mother express her pride, he smiles sheepishly.

“I’m happy I did not give up, and I hope I will be able to continue doing what I love,” he says.

There is no doubt that his choice to stand back up again is a decision he would have made again.

“I hope that I will be granted a Vietnamese citizenship in order to represent my home country in the future,” he says. “Việt Nam is the place where my roots are and a place I’d like to return to.”  — VNS


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