Grit and determination, be athletic and gifted, have drive and the ability to be coached. You must have all of these to ascend to the top of competitive sports, to be the total package. Austrian slalom boater Viktoria Wolffhardt exudes all of these, and more!
DBP Admin Jay Carpenter caught up with Viki via Instagram a few weeks before she medaled at the European Championships, including winning the K1 U23 class. “Winning here in Solkan, hometown of my dad, feels just sooooooo good! So happy to share this moment with my family!” He wanted to get to know more about what it takes to compete at a high level, as well as talk with the person inside of the athlete. (And congrats from DBP!)
JC: At the age of 22, it is no stretch to call you a world class competitive paddler with several Top Three finishes, including a couple of wins. Can you take us back to the beginning and tell us how you got started in competitive paddling? Was there a single moment that you knew the ICF was in your future?
V: “Both my parents were paddling, my dad for Slovenia and my mum for Austria. I tried different kinds of sports. I did ballet (I know, that’s hard to believe), handball and some others; but I just had the most fun kayaking. Since I was small my dad coached me, and my parents sacrificed their holidays to go paddling with me on different whitewater courses around Europe. I competed my first Junior Euros 2009 in Liptovsky as a 15 year old and got 5th. So the Austrian Canoe Federation decided to also take me to the World Championships in La Seu, where I finished 25th. And so everything got real… J”
JC: You mentioned in your Redbull bio that your parents have “spent a lot of time and money” for your training. What kind of training goes into staying competitive at this high level?
V: “I was always training alone as there were no other kids in my club. My dad drove me around Europe to all kind of international competitions, we tried to improve my technique on every training session, he bought me all the necessary equipment and managed to be my coach and my dad at the same time. For me it was always important to have my parents and people I trust around me to make my trainings as effective as possible.”
JC: You’ve have been competing on a serious level since 2012. Has there been any one event that stands out for you and why?
V: “The Youth Olympic Games in Singapore were amazing. An event like that is just so overwhelming for a young athlete and I took a lot of good memories, great emotions and experiences with me back home.”
JC: Unfortunately you didn’t compete in Rio at the 2016 Olympics. What do you think you need to improve upon personally to make it to the Olympian level?
V: “To participate at the Olympics is still one of my biggest goals and I will work hard to make this dream come true. To get to that level I still have to improve in my paddling skills, my fitness as well as my mindset during a competition.”
JC: “You’ve been blessed with the athletic talent to compete at a very high level, the fearlessness to excel in whitewater, and extraordinary natural beauty. You’ve been featured on a few magazine covers and sexy ads in Europe. Was it intimidating to pose in front of the camera, or was it no big deal for you? Did you get any negative response from other females? Everyone at DBP loves what you’ve done, by the way!”
V: “I did some really cool shoots and I am really thankful that I got the possibility to. If I felt uncomfortable doing it, I wouldn’t have done it. But the photographers and the whole team at set were always really nice and I have never done anything I felt awkward with. I enjoyed all the shoots I did, had always a lot of fun and I hope this is seen also on the pictures and you guys (and girls!) like them J”
JC: The rivers you have ran in competition are well documented. What rivers do you enjoy running the most outside of competitive paddling?
V: “As I spent a lot of time in Slovenia when I was young, I love to run the Soca. Sadly, lately I don’t have much time to do it as my schedule is full of competitions.”
JC: Gear talk time! What’s your favorite boat when you’re competing, and what’s your choice when out paddling for fun?
V: “I paddle VAJDA since a long time already. I tried some other boats but with but the VAJDAs I just feel comfortable and enjoy paddling the most.”
JC: Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to speak to your fans from around the world. As a young and promising paddler, can you leave us with a bit of advice for those considering how to carve a path to the ICF?
V: “So I think the most important thing is to have fun paddling and to keep your goal in mind. There will be ups but also a lot of downs in an athlete’s career. Always remember why you started paddling, try to make the best out of an injury and to learn from your mistakes.”
V’s bio for the ICF
V’s Red Bull Athlete page
V on Instagram, source of the photos in this interview