Skier B.Achbadrakh made his country proud by seizing Mongolia’s first medal from a World Championship event in skiing. Last February, he earned a bronze medal in the men’s cross-country 10 km qualification race at the Nordic World Ski Championships by finishing in 27 minutes and 27 seconds, losing second place by mere 10 seconds.
The young Mongolian skier has demonstrated that he is a world-class athlete. B.Achbadrakh revealed that he has set the ambitious goal to challenge himself at the Pyeong Chang 2018 Olympic Winter Games next.
The 22-year-old athlete delves into the skiing sport, his recent successes and aspirations in the interview below.
Congratulations on winning Mongolia’s first medal in skiing from a World Championship event. How confident were you about winning a medal at the Nordic World Ski Championships?
Thank you. Since the beginning of 2017, I have participated in four major tournaments, namely the Student Ski World Cup/ GEM Altigliss Challenge, the 2017 Asian Winter Games, and the International Ski Federation (FIS)’s Alpine World Ski Championships and Nordic World Ski Championships. The last one was the most important one. Four Mongolian athletes entered the championships under coach J.Khaliun.
I’m glad that I was able to win a bronze medal on my second participation in this championship. Last time, I came in 25th place. I was sure that I’d be able to do well this time because I trained really hard.
How did you feel standing on the podium and having the state flag raised on the world platform?
It’s was indescribable. I hoped it wasn’t a dream. My teammates were in tears when I arrived at the finishing line. At that exact moment, I was overwhelmed with emotions and I started crying. I felt so proud to be a Mongolian when I received my medal and when Mongolia’s flag was raised. Almost immediately, my mind went to my nation and my parents.
I hurried to share the good news with my mother who bid me a safe journey and kissed my forehead the last time I saw her. She’d already heard the news when I finally managed to connect with her through the internet. She said she was proud of me and wept so much that she couldn’t speak for a while. I’m pleased to have made my mother happy.
I’d like to use this opportunity to share my gratitude to the national team, the Mongolian Ski Federation, academic research workers specialized in sports, the General Authority for Border Protection’s Unit 0165, Khilchin Sports Committee, Uvurkhangai Province’s Bat-Ulzii soum authority, and my family.
How difficult was the ski racing track? Athletes from which country were strongest at the Nordic World Ski Championships?
It snowed a lot during the race. I competed against 67 athletes from 28 countries, and from them, Armenian, Lithuanian, and Belarusian skiers were the strongest.
My main strategy was to stay with the leading group of skiers from beginning to end. My coach also advised that I keep up with the fastest skier and gradually reduce the distance between us.
…I didn’t come this far just by sitting around. All the sweat and effort I poured every day is starting to pay off. The old saying that you can carve a better future by thinking positively is really true.
Who I am today and what I’ll achieve tomorrow all depends on me…
The latest championship you competed in was an A level competition. Was it possible for you to have done better?
The top 10 athletes of a B level competition become eligible to enter an A level competition. To be honest, I can’t even confidently say that I had a good chance of getting a medal. Last time I entered this championship, I finished in 84th place out of 134 contestants.
I was also quite drained out by the previous competition – the Student Ski World Cup.
Didn’t you participate in the Asian Winter Games right before the championship?
That’s right. After finishing the B level competition, I entered the Asian Winter Games in Japan. On the following day, I challenged the Nordic World Ski Championships so I got very tired during the last race.
How did you train for the championship?
The national team and the Mongolian Ski Federation negotiated with Sky Resort and got us free passes to train at Sky Resort.
Moreover, I took part in a joint training for over a month in Finland, which seems to have been very effective.
How many points have you gained from qualification tournaments for the Pyeong Chang 2018 Olympic Winter Games?
Until today, Mongolians skiers failed to pass B level competitions. I crossed a huge hurdle and opened a huge opportunity by winning a bronze from the World Championships. It allows me to enter A level competitions in the future. Mongolian skiers have never competed in this type of competition before. I hope to earn an entry to the Olympics next.
So far, I’ve collected 130 points. If I can earn 100 more points, I’ll get the chance to make a historic achievement. If I’m able to do so, the FIS will gift another Mongolian skier with a right to enter the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Another way for skiers to attain an Olympic quota is to get more than 300 points from five B level competitions.
What do you need to do to get 100 points?
I need to win medals. Even if I don’t win first place, I should lose by a narrow margin. That’s the only way I can earn an entry to the Winter Olympics.
Do you think winning a medal from the World Championship is different from winning an Olympic medal?
I’m sure I have a fair chance of winning an Olympic medal. Since my training facility is poor and I never get state support, I think it’s better to rely on my own strengths. I will work hard on my own.
You became the first Mongolian skier to win a medal from the World Championships. How did the Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Sports and people of your soum react?
It’s really nice to be congratulated and encouraged by my relatives, people from my birthplace, and Mongolian Ski Federation members. Representatives from the ministry and federation welcomed me back home at the airport.
…Since my training facility is poor and I never get state support, I think it’s better to rely on my own strengths. I will work hard on my own…
Is it true that your father was a skier? Did you become interested in skiing because of your father?
My father loves skiing and his enthusiasm passed onto me. I used to enjoy watching my father ski in the coldest months. I wanted to ski so much that I started training in 2006, when I was 11 years old. Coach Bayandelgerer first taught me to ski on a wooden ski back in Bat-Ulzii soum of Uvurkhangai Province.
It’s interesting how you won the State Ski Championship five times but never won the junior and youth championships. Can you tell us about this?
Yes, it’s quite interesting. My personal record suddenly improved in 2012. I’m guessing it’s because I didn’t have a coach and trained on my own before then. I’ve made significant achievements within the last five years – ever since I started training under coach Dashdondog and Khaliun.
I became a Vice-master of Sports in 2012, a Master of Sports in 2014 and an International Sports Master two years ago. I joined the junior national team in 2013 and the national team in 2014. I won the State Ski Championship five times. I came in 29th place at the Student Ski World Cup, and in 11th place at the Sapporo International Ski Marathon.
There are two forms of skiing – alpine and cross-country. In which form do you have a better chance of succeeding?
My goal is to actively train and make significant achievements in both forms.
Do you do any other sports?
I do short distance running, in other words sprinting, on track and field. I will challenge myself in a competition if I ever get the chance.
As winter sports are still new to Mongolia, athletes training in winter sports don’t have adequate training facilities. Have you ever felt like quitting and switching to another sport?
Skiers have to keep training throughout the year to become good. We rest only once a week. For sure, there are times when I get depressed. It’s common for us to get frost bites while training in cold temperature.
Right now, we’re training at Sky Resort because we don’t have a proper training facility. When skiers from other countries post photos of their standard training places on their Facebook page, I envy them a lot. I heard that some countries provide accommodations right next to the training facility to athletes and provide them with everything they need.
Our training conditions might be nowhere near those of countries that are highly developed in winter sports, but they are slowly improving and the government is starting to support us. The national team is covering our expenses for entering competitions and providing us with necessary medication and vitamins.
Young people have sufficient opportunities to start skiing and surpass skiers from other countries. I don’t have the right to step back if I want to fulfill my goal.
What’s the secret to your success?
I didn’t come this far just by sitting around. All the sweat and effort I poured every day is starting to pay off. The old saying that you can carve a better future by thinking positively is really true.
Who I am today and what I’ll achieve tomorrow all depends on me. I strongly believe that my hard work will pay off someday. One should never be satisfied with their current results and should always keep pushing oneself.
What’s your near-term plan?
An Olympic qualifier tournament will take place next month in Turkey. I plan to enter that tournament as well as the Demino Ski Marathon, which will be held in Russia. Skiers will be required to ski 50 kilometers in the marathon. I’ll start training in two days.