Feature | Alpine Skiing

Italy's jet-man Dominik Paris: What makes me rise to the occasion

The Super G world champion reflects on his life-changing experience as a herdsman, how he's become a more patient man after fatherhood and what makes him deliver on race day.

By Alessandro Poggi ·

Dominik Paris has come a long way to become one of the fastest skiers in the world.

There was a time when the Italian jet-man didn't like to train and only wanted to race and party.

When he turned 18, the life of the four-time Kitzbuehel king took a decisive turn: he moved to the Swiss Alps and spent 100 days working as a herdsman, waking up as early as three in the morning, and finally found his path.

"That was a very important period of my life," Paris recalls in an exclusive interview with Olympic Channel.

"I became more mature and I understood that only with hard work you can achieve results."

The Italian went on to win three medals at the junior world championships in Garmisch in 2009.

Two years later Paris made the first of his 38 World Cup podiums, including 18 wins.

Dominik Paris (left) clinched his first World Cup podium in January 2011 in Chamonix, France.

Fast forward a decade and the 31-year-old from the Ulten Valley has become a father twice and overcome the worst injury of his career.

"I've become more patient... I always wanted everything at once, but you need to be patient with kids," Paris said about parenting his two sons Niko and Lio, born in 2018 and 2020 respectively.

Patience is a virtue that now he needs more than ever.

Since his return to competition following a torn knee ACL in January 2020, Paris is still waiting for his first win, although encouraging results came in the Bormio and Kitzbühel downhills at the start of 2021, including a third-place finish.

"It's difficult to guess when I'll be at the top again," he said ahead of the season.

"I want to come back to my previous levels and this pushes me to train harder and get faster." - Dominik Paris

Dominik Paris clinched his first World Cup podium since his injury at the Kitzbuehel downhill on 22 January 2021.

Kitzbühel like San Siro

On the iconic Streif slope, Paris clinched his first podium since his comeback.

"Kitzbuehel is like San Siro, when the fans are there it's such a spectacular and emotional experience," the Italian said, comparing the course on the Hahnenkamm mountain to the famous football arena in Milan.

"Apart from its history, I really like this course because is different from the rest. It's very tough, that's why they call it Hell!"

The severe knee injury he suffered one year ago forced the 2019 Super G world champion to face his biggest setback so far.

"At the beginning, I felt a bit discouraged, but I immediately understood that injuries are part of this job.

"I needed to be patient, especially the first few months. Normally I'm not very patient, but I had to take small steps at a time.

"I think I managed to recover quite well. I focused on my rehabilitation and during the summer I worked really hard to be able to wear my skis again in September.

"I don't feel I've changed. In training I keep doing the same things, racing will help me find the right adjustments," Paris said before his competitive debut this season.

Forging a winning mentality on a mountain pasture

"I don't have a proper motto. What I know is that only through hard work you can reach important results."

'Domme' grew up in South Tyrol and had skis on his feet by the age of three thanks to his father, a ski instructor.

But before becoming the 'King of the Streif', the 100 kg racer had to face struggles that forced him to re-focus.

At the age of 16, he left school, worked occasionally as a bricklayer, and couldn't train much. Despite some good results, he felt stuck at a dead end.

Hence the decision to leave home and spend a whole summer on an alp in Switzerland to work in the pastures and train.

"That was a turning point in my life," the 31-year-old admits.

"I worked as a herdsman for long hours, but I also found time to work out.

"I followed a training programme: I did runs up and down the mountains, exercises for the abs...basically I tried to stimulate my muscles and work out without a proper gym.

"After working hard that summer, then in the winter I reaped the benefits and I achieved important results.

"That experience made me grow and made me what I am today" - Dominik Paris to Olympic Channel

Paris had rediscovered his enthusiasm and gradually turned into a top competitor in the World Cup circuit.

Dominik Paris celebrates after his fourth win in Kitzbuhel in January 2019.

The secret of Paris' consistency

"I feel strong both physically and mentally," the 2019 Super G World Cup winner said about his current form.

"I think my best quality is that during a competition I can give something more. In the past, many times I could perform during the race even if I didn't do well in the training runs.

"I feel I can get the best out of myself in competition because I know that it's the race that matters, while in training I hold myself back a bit and don't want to take unnecessary risks."

"During a race I want to show what limits I can surpass." - Dominik Paris

After winning his first medal at the World Championships in Schladming in 2013, Paris has continued to improve season after season.

In the 2018/2019 campaign, he managed to secure seven World Cup victories and last year he became a contender for the men's overall title before his injury.

How can he explain his growth?

"The experience for sure helps, with time I've learned how to prepare for the season and how to make the difference in specific races.

"We've also been working a lot to develop the materials and that made me more consistent over the last few seasons."

"There are lot of things that need to come together at the same time and that's how you earn consistency." - Dominik Paris

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Paris and Herminator

Since he was a kid, the Italian speed sensation had always had a ski idol, Austrian legend Hermann Maier.

"I've always liked the aggressiveness he had when he was racing. During the competition he was like if he exploded," Paris said of the two-time Olympic champion.

"I watched many races and I remember that period well, while I was too young to remember Alberto Tomba.

"Maier always fought until the end: even after he made a mistake, he managed to stay up and come down in the fastest possible way."

'Herminator' ended his career in 2009 after 54 World Cup wins, four overall titles, and a total of 10 medals between Worlds and Olympics.

What did he have in common with Paris?

"Maybe we both give our best when we are in racing mode." - Paris on Maier

Paris during a concert with the Rise OF Voltage in Milwaukee, USA, in the 2018 summer. (Source: Rise OF Voltage Facebook Page)

Heavy metal love

Paris likes channelling his aggressiveness in race, and also enjoys expressing his artistic side in music.

The Italian is the lead singer of the 'Rise of Voltage', a heavy metal band set up with a group of friends.

After the success of the first album 'Time' in 2018, a new release is coming up this year.

"We are working on it. The album is still in production and we haven't recorded anything yet. We did some rehearsals in the studio and we've been sharing files and ideas so we can prepare at home and be ready to record. I hope we can release the new album in late spring-summer," he said.

The Merano native admitted that he hasn't found any fellow skier who shares his musical taste yet, while skiing hasn't featured in his songs - at least for the moment.

"I growl in English and in my lyrics I like to talk about my emotions." - Dominik Paris

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Mission Beijing 2022 for Paris

Paris has already taken part in three Winter Olympics, with a fourth place in the PyeongChang 2018 downhill being his best result so far.

"I've done a few Games and now I know how it works," he told us.

"In Korea I just finished outside of the podium and I hope to be in top form at the next Olympics." - Dominik Paris

"The Olympics are much bigger than any other ski event because we can meet athletes from other winter sports, we can watch how they prepare and how they compete. It feels completely different."

The alpine races at Beijing 2022 will take place at the National Alpine Skiing Centre on the Xiaohaituo Mountain, in the Yanqing District, around 90 km northwest of the Chinese capital.

The test events scheduled for February 2021 were cancelled by the International Ski Federation due to the COVID-19 restrictions, so how will the Italian prepare for the event?

"We'll test the course and the materials once we are there.

"Everybody is in the same boat. I usually adapt to new courses quite quickly, but I can't really say much as I don't know the track.

"If the snow is different, everything can change, but we'll know better once we are there."

Dominik Paris during the combined event at Vancouver 2010. The Italian finished in 13th place.