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Up, up and away

The lord of the air

No, Aaron Durogati is not Superman but he sure knows how to push himself beyond the limits of human resistance… He was a two-time winner of the paragliding world cup, in 2013 and 2017. For a number of years he has combined the passion for flight inherited from his father – who already took him as a young boy to fly over his beloved Merano neighborhood – with other demanding disciplines. He has had a master’s license in skiing since he was 18 years old, does trail running, and has been on expeditions to the most remote corners of the planet: he has done it all.

Durogati entered the elite circle of athletes participating in the Red Bull X-Alps, one of the toughest competitions in the world, which combines paragliding, running, hiking and climbing. Aaron is a four-time veteran and in 2021, when the next edition takes place, over 1000 km through the Alps, he is planning for a starring role: “It is a great adventure more than just a competition. Even in low moments, when difficulties and tiredness take over and you see the other athletes passing you (which I don’t like at all by the way), I try to think about the beauty of a race that is like a puzzle, where strategy, weather conditions and the ability to conserve your strength define the final outcome.”

Aaron Durogatti won the paragliding world cup twice: in 2013 and 2017

An ordinary person would be led to think that the activities he participates in are extreme sports, but Durogati begs to differ. “Paragliding is very popular in the Alps and I don’t consider it an extreme activity at all. The word extreme is associated with danger, with doing something reckless. I was 6 when I started flying and was 15 when I made my first solo flight. My path has been a gradual one that led me to where I am and I have not improvised anything. Maybe some things I do are improvised but more in terms of physical endurance, “he clarifies.

Yet the concept of fear is not foreign to him: “I often have it. Fear is a positive feeling in some ways if you know how to handle it. It makes you more careful and doesn’t let you take anything for granted. Ironically, it’s more dangerous when you are not afraid because, due to habit, you do things automatically that a beginner would pay more attention to. You should never take things lightly.

The 34 year old from Merano has participated in the Redbull X-Alps competition 4 times already and wants to prove his worth in 2021 as well

A real watershed in his sports career was the injury that occurred in 2017 during that year’s X-Alps: a problem that made him more aware of his limits and forced him to review his approach to defeat. “I didn’t have a real accident. After 70-80 km of running, my knee became inflamed. I tried to stay in the race for another three days, trying to recover the disadvantage by flying better than the others. As I continued, my condition deteriorated further, until the doctors advised me to stop. It was tough because I was a favourite and my team was very strong. It was not easy at all to pull out.” It was more than a little disappointing but it gave him the right stimulus to respond as a true champion, redeeming himself a few months later at the Dolomitenmann, another relay race classic that includes mountain running, kayaking, MTB and paragliding. He repeated his success in 2018. If it is true that pain and defeat offer a lesson, Aaron has learned his: “Until then, nothing seemed to hurt me and I felt invincible. Then I realized that the body is like a machine … the more you use it, the more it wears out and I was pretty brutal on my body! After my injury, I learned to listen when my body says stop and that I did too much. Now I try to train the right way, preferring the quality of preparation over quantity.”

Aaron Durogati is a globetrotter, but his favourite mountain remains the Mutspitze in South Tyrol

There are places like Brazil, Patagonia and many others around the world, yet Durogati has chosen Merano as his refuge for the soul: “It is really special for the climate, nature and the lifestyle. In ten minutes, you can go from the city to serious peaks. We are really lucky and, Muta is my mountain.”

When he isn’t flying, Aaron prepares for new challenges, goes to the gym and tries to spend as much time as possible with his son Arno (3 years old) and his Czech partner Renata, whom he met through paragliding. “Arno was paragliding with us for the first time when he was only 2 years old and has already made dozens of flights,” he reveals. If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, we can bet the Durogati “dynasty” will soon welcome a new paraglider.

Durogati’s big goal? To beat Christian Maurer, the Swiss athlete who has won the last six editions of the X-Alps: “Christian is very strong and we are also friends. Let’s see what happens but this is my goal…”.