Sunday, 13 March 2022

Winter Paralympic Games: Damir Mizdrak Finishes 7th in Slalom

March 13, 2022 - On the last day of the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing, Croatia's representative was skier Damir Mizdrak, who won seventh place in the slalom for the blind and visually impaired, which is his best result in major competitions.

This was Mizdrak's third Paralympic Games after Sochi (2014) and PyeongChang (2018). So far, his best slalom ranking was ninth place four years ago in Korea, while he took 11th place in Sochi. He is eighth and ninth from the world championships, reports HRT.

The victory went to Italian Giacomo Bertagnolli, in second was Austrian Johannes Aigner with 28 hundredths of a second behind Bertagnolli, while the bronze went to Slovak Miroslav Haraus (+9.40).

"I am much happier than I was in the giant slalom. In the first run, I drove solidly; the track was a bit more open. Maybe I'm a little sorry that I didn't get into the rhythm well. In the second run, there was trouble, but it was better. All in all, we did a good job at these games," said the 30-year-old from Zagreb, who will remember Beijing for the best results in slalom and giant slalom, in which he was also seventh.

"These games in Beijing are my favorite, not only because of the placement but because of the overall impression and organization. And because of the ski resort and our whole team and everything we've been through in recent seasons. I think we did a very good job," he pointed out.

The Winter Paralympics are in Milan and Cortina in four years, but Mizdrak believes that it is still too far for some plans.

"We will see; four years is still a big period, now I have to reset, and after that, we will see," he said.

His eyesight began to deteriorate from the age of five when he was diagnosed with an incurable disease of optic nerve damage. However, he did not allow his damage to limit him from playing sports.

"I was lucky because my family and friends never saw it as a problem. I’ve always been in a society where spades are made, and football is played. So I was lucky and grew up normal. I have always loved sports, and from an early age, I was involved in all school sports activities that allowed me to play with poor eyesight," said the member of SKOI Sljeme.

Mizdrak's guide on the ski slope is Marija Coch. They are connected by a Bluetooth device which acts as his “eyes on the track.”

"I am happy and satisfied that we managed to achieve this placement and perform at the Games in general. This is my first time, and I still need time to process some things, to become aware of everything," said the 22-year-old from Zagreb.

"Like Damir, I prefer slalom, which is good because of our communication. It is faster and more dynamic, and it is easier for us to ski slalom because the distance is smaller and we are close. In the giant slalom, when Damir makes a mistake, it is harder to get back on track," added Coch, who has been skiing and working with Mizdrak for the last three years.

Coach Luka Dobrinić pointed out that Mizdrak did well in these Games, achieving his best placements in slalom and giant slalom.

"These are his third Games and the best placements. It is a beautiful thing; it can be seen that we are advancing, not going backward," said Dobrinić, referring to Mizdrak's performance in slalom.

"Damir had two good runs; the second was a bit better. The trail is not easy, it is quite steep, and the second was even more demanding. Nevertheless, he had a good Games, he gave his maximum, and I have no objections. Congratulations to the entire team that has been working here for these four years," Dobrinić emphasized.

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