Swiss slider Gisler fancies his chances on home track
After qualifying to race at his home Youth Olympic Games, men’s monobob medal hope Fabian Gisler reveals how he fell in love with driving down steep-banked ice tracks at speeds of up to 100kph, despite a rocky introduction to the sport.
Fabian Gisler is wonderfully honest. The 17-year-old may be one of Switzerland’s great hopes for a medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020, but his reaction when he was first taken to the top of an ice track and told to drive down it in what looked like a fibreglass bathtub balanced on razor-sharp rails is something most people can relate to.
“It my first season training, we made an inspection of the track with the coach and then went straight to the top. I was terrified,” Gisler said, shaking his head at the memory.
“On the second and third drive I still had a little queasy feeling but since then I have never really been scared any more. With a new track, I have some respect for it on the first drive, but not fear.”
The sports-obsessed teenager is clearly a quick learner. Just a few years after swapping skiing and athletics for bobsleigh, he breezed through the qualification process for Lausanne 2020. Gisler finished first twice, second and eighth in the opening four races of the eight-race International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation Youth Series 2019. With each athlete’s best four results counting, it was enough to qualify the Swiss man in third, just behind the Republic of Korea’s Kim Jimin and the Frenchman, Nathan Besnard.
“I feel great and very proud,” Gisler said. “Now I will get to drive on my home track, the only natural ice rink in the world and the place where I learned bobsleigh.”
The Olympia Bob Run in St Moritz is one of the most venerated tracks on the planet, having been first sculpted out of the mountain in 1904 by a team of British pioneers. Perhaps naturally, Switzerland has been an Olympic sliding powerhouse ever since.
Olympic Channel Video: chris-mazdzer-st-moritz-track-hand-built
Gisler names Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 two-man bobsleigh gold medallist Beat Hefti – his country’s most recent champion – as his long-time hero. Not that the young athlete grew up ever imagining he would get an opportunity to emulate the great man.
“It was pure coincidence that I came to monobob,” Gisler said. “Swiss Sliding sent me an invitation to try training thanks to my achievements in athletics. I have been doing athletics since I was six years old, sprinting and high jump and long jump.”
While the route from the athletics track to the ice track is well worn, with foot speed a critical factor in bobsleigh, Gisler’s expertise in another sport has helped most in his transition.
“I've also been skiing since I was three years old and done ski races and was in my regional team,” he explained. “From that I was already used to the speed and I already knew how to feel curves and how to look ahead.”
This feel is critical in how Gisler approaches monobob, with his style reliant on natural sensation ahead of pure technique. Given his familiarity with the St Moritz track, it helps explain why he is being touted as the man to beat once competition starts on the Olympia Bob Run on 20 January 2020. It is a date Gisler has been thinking about for a while.
“I've known for about three years that there was a Youth Olympic Games. During training sessions and then the recent qualification races I’ve met many young people from many different countries, talked to them and had a lot of fun,” Gisler said. “The mood among everyone has been very good.”
They do not sound like the words of someone who is nervous.
“No, nervousness has never been a problem for me,” Gisler added. “I mean nerves are part of it, but they don’t really bother me. I usually always have a good feeling and I am well prepared and know the track.”
Compatriot Kilian Rohn will join Gisler in the 18-man monobob field and the pair will not lack for support.
“All my relatives, friends and colleagues are coming to St Moritz,” Gisler said. “I’m doing an apprenticeship as a draftsman specialising in architecture and attend a vocational school for one-and-a-half days a week. My apprenticeship company always supports me and gives me additional time for training.
“If I win a gold, they will certainly be proud of me, and my schoolmates will be delighted – they will all probably organise a party.”
Olympic Channel Video: bobsleigh-sport-explainer-lausanne-2020
By Olympic Information Service