It could have been the end of her career if it wasn’t for last year, when she completely redefined her understanding of success. She was ready—more than ever. But instead of racing her first World Cup giant slalom, Austrian ski racer Bernadette “Bernie” Lorenz found herself on a hospital operating table.
One year ago, Lorenz was released from the Austrian national team. The prior season should have been her year. She had big goals and wanted to establish herself in the World Cup. Instead, lacking results, she lost her joy and motivation—the 25-year-old thought about giving up her dream when she was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Paul Epstein, head coach of Team Global Racing, offered her something special.
“It was after one of the last training days of the season,” Lorenz remembers. “I was desperate and clueless about the future of my ski racing career when I mustered my courage and asked Paul for a talk. I only wanted to present him with my situation and ask for advice.” But Epstein didn’t give her advice. Instead, he invited Lorenz to join his thus far men-only racing team.
Let’s do this
“I was perplexed and overwhelmed as I would never have expected such an offer.” What an opportunity. “Fears and doubts came up in my head immediately: What will the boys on the team think about that idea? Will I be able to finance this project? And do I actually want to continue ski racing at all?”
It took almost two months for Lorenz to make a decision. After a short time out (a yoga retreat in Portugal), she called Epstein and told him she would like to accept his offer and join Global. He replied simply, “Let’s do this.” She had realized it was a chance to break up her ingrained patterns and escape the system.
The first training days with the team reminded Lorenz why she loved the sport so much: “The feeling I missed over the last year was suddenly back, the joy, the motivation, the fun. From day one, I was convinced it was the right decision for me.”
Listen, Follow & Perform
What she experienced during the summer of 2022 until her injury at the Austrian time trials for Sölden had altered her mindset and, with it, her skiing. “It was a totally new situation for me. On the national team, everything was organized and paid for. As athletes, we just had to listen, follow, and perform.” Then, suddenly, Lorenz had to take on all responsibility herself. “It felt like I had matured a lot. It widened my horizon. I had to become my own boss, make my own decisions and organize everything myself.” She remembers that when she bought her first lift ticket at the summer camp in Saas-Fee, she started to recognize the value of all those aspects that seemed so automatic when she was on the national team. “And this was also the point when I became aware of the privilege that I have: Being able to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a World Cup ski racer.”
A woman on a men’s team
But how does it feel being the only woman on a men’s team? “Honestly, I love it. There is way less drama and much more rational thinking. It’s an environment where you can really focus on what you have to do. Everyone pushes each other to improve every day because everyone knows that the stronger the team, the stronger you are yourself.” But that was not the only difference. On the national team, Lorenz always somehow felt that she must be happy to be on the team. With Global Racing, she feels everyone is glad she is on the team. “Understand; the national team treated me very well and always supported me. But, this situation somehow feels like I am gaining some needed freedom.”
What is success?
Everything went like clockwork. Lorenz trained hard over the summer, was in great shape, got invited to train with the Austrian team and earned her spot in the Austrian Sölden World Cup time trial. She had never before felt so strong and ready. But it wasn’t meant to be. Lorenz tore her ACL for the fourth time in her career after crashing at the trials.
She accepted the situation quickly and had no doubts that she wanted to come back. During her rehab, she reflected on the last two years, gave it some deep thought, and asked herself: What helped me regain my joy and changed my definition of success? “I realized that before, I couldn’t appreciate myself when I didn’t get the results. I defined myself by my skiing and not myself as a human.” Talking openly with others showed her that she wasn’t alone in her frustrations. So many athletes out there face the same problems. It helped Lorenz realize that ski racing can be your life, but life is more than ski racing.
More than her results
“On the national team, I often felt like nobody really looks into the person. Success is all about results. Working with Global has shown me that it’s not only the results that matter but the journey. It’s about finding joy in every challenge and being proud of yourself once you overcome any part of them. While you are constantly striving to get better, you often forget how far you’ve already come, how much you’ve learned and how much you’ve improved. It’s important to stay composed and satisfied, knowing that you have done everything you can to be where you are right now. That in itself is already enough.” Lorenz wants to encourage all athletes who are in a similar situation as she was, who feel desperate and who find it hard to accept themselves as a person: “Accept your challenges and learn to love them. And know that you are not alone.”
Way to go!
Lorenz can soon put on her race skis again. She is physically in great shape and mentally prepared. The fact that Völkl believes in her is another big pillar she can build on: “They have never shown any doubts, and their support is outstanding. Having them continually backing me up as a partner gives me enormous trust.” She completed her training as a yoga teacher while she did her rehab, which certainly helped: “These weeks have been very inspiring and have strengthened my belief even more that I am on the right track. I can’t wait in the fall to take on the challenge when it’s time again to compete in the Sölden time trial.”
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