From Rasun Anterselva to the roof of the world. The life of Dorothea Wierer, world biathlon champion, is the classic success story of the girl next door. At 29, she already won two thirds at the Winter Olympics, then three bronze medals, two silvers and, at the last Östersund World Championships in Sweden, an unexpected gold for the 12.5 km line-up.
“I felt very satisfied with myself, also because on the eve of the race I was sick and I never thought I could win.” Dorothea tells us this on the “day after”, conscious of the fact that the challenges never end for an athlete, especially if the next one will be defending the world title in her native Anterselva, a South Tyrolean town where the next World Championships will be held. Coincidentally, it is the birthplace of another biathlon champion: Dominik Windisch. “Expectations are and will always be very high – says Wierer – and I know that because they will take place at home, the competition will be fierce. Anyway, I’ll try to manage the pressure.” The tone of her answers mirror her determination to do well, and conveys her sense of responsibility to reconfirm what has already been done. Yet, all this is taken in stride by Dorothea with a disarming naturalness; a distinctive trait of a sunny character, and she is known for her contagious smile and big blue eyes. In fact, her innate cheerfulness and attractiveness have conquered the public and the media, so much so that she has become a spokesperson for a sport that had gained little popularity in Italy until now.
“I have never experienced being in the public eye as a problem, on the contrary, I am pleased to be appreciated for my direct character and my appearance. Who is more jealous – myself or my husband (Stefano Corradini, cross-country skiing coach ed)? Fortunately, we both handle it well, trusting each other and trying to spend time together as much as we can. On the other hand, sincerity is the quality I value most in a man.” Not surprisingly, its undoubted beauty and her prowess with skis and rifles that have attracted the attention of great international giants such as Adidas and Red Bull, who now sponsor the sport: “I am delighted that such important brands have reached out to our discipline which had previously been considered of minor importance. I believe that this collaboration can be an advantage for the whole sporting scene.”
But behind any triumph, an essential element is the back story that each person carries with them. “My life in Rasun was that of an ordinary girl who was born in a mountain village. Living with two other brothers and as many sisters was not always easy but we love each other. I think it was my parents who made the biggest effort, and were able to raise five very happy children like us.” Dorothea is closely linked to her childhood and her origins, so much so that, if asked which is the place she loves most in South Tyrol, there is no hesitation: “My home, where I can enjoy the garden in the company of my family and a nice plate of canederli with cabbage.” Anterselva is also the Promised Land of biathlon and Wierer’s predisposition towards this sport was a natural transition. “I was born there, so I think it was automatic to bond with cross-country skiing and, consequently, to biathlon. My older brothers were already practicing this sport, and it taught me to never give up and believe in myself to the end.”
One of her signature traits is her well-known passion for fashion and the perfect look that she shows off during the races. “While I am traveling around the world, there are never any ordinary women’s clothes in my suitcase, and even when I am in a race I love coordinating the colour of my accessories, like earrings, with the rest. It makes me feel good.” Dorothea defines herself as “non-superstitious” – her only pre-race ritual is to check the equipment and her rifle – and admits that she has very little free time. “Every chance I can I try to relax and spend as much time as possible with my husband and my family without thinking about sports.” On her future and on what will happen after the World Championships, however, the options are wide open: “At the moment I don’t want to think about it. I prefer to concentrate on my present as an athlete. Start a family? Sure we are thinking about it and it will be a good challenge that we will take on sooner or later.” And anyone can bet that, whatever her decision, it will be yet another perfect bulls-eye.