Felix Neureuther wants to do it again. Almost a year after a cruciate ligament rupture in training cost him the Olympic season, the best German skier has fought his way back and is attacking again in the slalom World Cup.
Even after the long injury break, Neureuther is as popular as ever with sponsors: at the start of the 2018/19 season, Neureuther and Sony Music announced a collaboration for his project "Move Smart". Already at the beginning of the year, Neureuther became a partner in the avalanche backpack manufacturer ABS Protection.
In the interview, Neureuther talked about his social media secret, World Cup dominator Marcel Hirscher and about a businessman Neureuther.
ISPO.com: Mr. Neureuther, you used your injury break to also get a taste of the business world. Since January 2018, you have been a partner in the avalanche backpack manufacturer ABS. At the time, it was said that you wanted to be more than just an advertising face. After the first good ten months, what is your interim conclusion?
Felix Neureuther: We have jointly developed a lighter backpack. But so far I've been extremely busy with my sport, especially after the injury. We have an incredibly good team at ABS that does an outstanding job. Managing Director Stefan Mohr always keeps me up to date. Of course, I'm still primarily a very critical product tester. I think that through my experience I know what an avalanche backpack is all about.
So will we be hearing more from businessman Felix Neureuther in the future?
That sounds terrible! But there will be, of course. That was the positive thing about the injury, that I was able to deal with what life without sports can be like. I have to say that life without competitive sports is also a very nice one, even if it is completely different. In sports, a lot of things were always taken away from me, especially by my father. Now I take more care of it myself. So that will certainly become a part after my career. Otherwise, I'll just write children's books.
When you joined ABS, you also invested in your passion for freeriding. How important is an avalanche backpack to yourself in powder?
It's just responsible. We can't influence nature, something can always happen. I'm involved with ABS because I find the product compelling and it has saved many lives and can save lives in the future. Also, it's a cool backpack. If it can also help you, it's a perfect fit.
Have you always been this responsible?
When I was a boy and went off-road, I felt like Superman. Nothing can happen to me anyway, and if a snow slab comes, I'll just ride out on top. That's how stupid I was.
You were also one of the last people in the Ski World Cup to ski without a helmet ...
I said at the time: 'Those with helmets are all wimps!' That was a feeling of freedom for me. Then helmets became compulsory. Once I was at a children's training course without a helmet. All around me were kids wearing helmets who asked me: "Felix, why aren't you wearing a helmet? Then I thought to myself: Shit, you're actually completely right, I'm a complete idiot. From then on, I always rode with a helmet. But it's not just about helmets, it's also about back protectors or an avalanche backpack, for example. Just as I had to realize that the helmet is very important on the slopes, it is the avalanche backpack for me in the backcountry. That's why it's now quite normal equipment for me.
On the web, with over 600,000 Facebook fans and 355,000 Instagram followers, you are by far Germany's biggest number in winter sports. What is your secret recipe for a successful social media presence?
There is no secret. I am the way I am. There's no point in posting something just to get it posted. The cool thing about social media is that you can make people laugh, smile or think. For me, the best part is when I can make people laugh with it. I try to do that from time to time. But that happens more out of the situation. I don't give it any particular thought.
You are now entering your 17th World Cup season. Can you - especially after the serious injury and the birth of your daughter - still motivate yourself at all for it?
Of course, I can already see an end coming. For me, I needed the goal to come back after such an injury. I do believe that there is still something in me. I love challenges, and this one is a very big one for me. But the bigger, the better it is for me. But I already find it incredibly difficult to travel away from home. I don't think it will get any easier in the future. But as long as it still makes sense, I'll still try to drive.
...to maybe still lift the slalom crystal globe?
Unfortunately, I have the bad luck that there is one, Marcel Hirscher, who of course simply also has a whole country behind him. He is the absolute Ferrari. A whole country, a ski company and a ski association simply do everything for him. It's difficult to keep up. The ÖSV goes in with an insane amount of money so that he has a material advantage over others. And he himself is a machine in terms of his body and insane in terms of his head.
I actually had him in my pocket twice, but he fought back mercilessly. I should have won the slalom World Cup twice, but didn't put in the performance, while he went down like it was nothing. He's just a board. He's the best I've seen in my active time.
Felix Neureuther will now continue his professional career away from the ski slopes. On March 16, 2019, he thanked his fans with a moving video on Facebook and Instagram for their great support and announced his career end: "My heart and especially my body have given me to understand clearly in recent months that it is time to end this chapter 'ski racing', which has been so wonderful for me." He left open which paths he wants to take in the future. But it is certain that he will remain connected to the sport: "Skiing has been my life and will remain so in the future. That's why I'm not saying 'servus', but see you soon. "