In vision impaired alpine skiing, Aigner siblings haul in the medals

Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics - Day 8
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Christian and Petra Aigner might need to expand the family home in Gloggnitz, Austria, to make room for all of the alpine skiing hardware their kids won at the 2022 Winter Paralympics.

Son Johannes got the Paralympic medal haul started on day one of the Games when he won gold in men’s downhill vision impaired. The 16-year-old skier has gone on to win medals in all four events he has entered with the slalom still to come on Sunday morning in Beijing (Saturday night in the United States).

Meanwhile the Aigner sisters joined the medal party later in the week with tech specialists 19-year-old Veronika and 16-year-old Barbara (Johannes’ twin) winning gold and bronze, respectively, in the giant slalom vision impaired on Friday. One day later in the slalom, Veronika claimed a second straight gold while Barbara bumped up to a silver.

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And that’s not all.

Veronika competes with her sister Elisabeth, 23, guiding her, making the podium celebration a true family affair.

Video of Aigner sisters claiming slalom gold and silver at the 2022 Winter Paralympics:

In total, the Aigner family has claimed eight medals at the 2022 Winter Paralympics (and Johannes can add a potential ninth in the slalom).

“It’s very crazy that all the sisters and brother got a medal,” Veronika said.

“I cried at the flower ceremony because I’m so happy to win with my sisters. All of us cried at the ceremony,” Elisabeth said.

While Barbara’s guide, Klara Sykora, might not be technically related, she still feels like a member of the family.

“I saw every one of them grow up and I’m just so unbelievably proud of everyone,” Sykora said.

In vision impaired alpine skiing, athletes compete with a guide who provides verbal instructions, which are communicated via either headsets or a speaker strapped to the guide’s back.

Veronika, Barbara, and Johannes have a congenital cataract vision impairment, same as their mother Petra. Growing up in Austria, the two other Aigner siblings – Elisabeth and Irmgard – learned to serve as guides on the slopes.

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In January 2021, Veronika tore the cruciate ligament and meniscus in both knees after she crashed in training. She managed to return to the slopes later in the year, but says the injury still causes pain.

“But when I drive the course, I concentrated on my sister and then I didn’t concentrate on the knees,” she explained after taking gold in slalom.

It’s not the first time a member of the family distracted themselves from pain by thinking of their sister.

At the end of the 2019-20 season, Veronika was in contention to win the slalom title. But ahead of a key race, Elisabeth was hit with severe stomach pain. She powered through to guide Veronika down the slope before going to the hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery for appendicitis.

“I give her insanely high credit for that,” Veronika said in November.

Looking ahead, the Aigner sisters have set some very specific goals.

Barbara is already planning for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Paralympics in four years. “If I can manage this at 16 years of age, I’m going to manage this at 20 years of age as well,” she says, while Veronika plans to compete until at least 2030.

As for the near term?

“We are looking forward to a party when we get home,” Barbara says.

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