Patrick Brachner is Azerbaijan’s sole flagbearer and athlete who will compete in the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which open Friday and run through February 25.
Brachner, 26, will compete in the giant slalom, a long-distance ski race with wide and fast turns. Brachner is not new to the Olympics: he carried Azerbaijan’s flag in the opening ceremony of the 2014 games in Sochi, where he placed 53rd in the event.
Despite his past failing, and being Azerbaijan’s sole athlete to compete in South Korea, Brachner is not deterred.
“Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion,” the Austrian-born athlete wrote on his Instagram account.
Brachner took up alpine skiing at age three in Forsteralm, Austria and began racing at age 12. In 2007, he made his competition debut, representing Austria, but three years later he switched to represent Azerbaijan. In 2010, he first represented the Caspian country at the World Cup, held in Zagreb, Croatia, playing football (soccer).
His accolades include being ranked as the fastest alpine skier after finishing first in the men’s giant slalom events held by the International Ski Federation (FIS) in Czech city of Albrechtice in 2012. He also won gold at the FIS Giant Slalom events held in Sarajevo in 2013.
Brachner also competed at the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria, where he finished 37th and as a result, qualified for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. However later that year he injured his knee in a crash while skiing, which affected his preparation for the Games.
The XXIII Olympic Winter Games are bringing together nearly 3,000 athletes, and 51 of them will be representing Caspian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Iran and Azerbaijan. 169 top sportsmen and women from Russia will march into the Olympic stadium in Pyeongchang but under a neutral flag due to a doping scandal that rocked the international sports community after the Sochi games.