Alexandros Ginnis: Alexandros Ginnis, the skier who left the all-powerful USA team and won the first winter sports medal in Greek history | The Mountaineer | Sports

Just at the beginning of this century, the late Navarrese mountaineer Iñaki Ochoa de Olza appeared in the alpine town of Arêches-Beaufort to participate in the Pierra Menta, the most important ski mountaineering stage event on the calendar. He had just woken up and was trying to warm up in a thin lycra jumpsuit, when an Italian rival approached him and asked where he was from. “Pamplona? Is that close to the sea, right?” The Italian inquired. “An hour by car,” replied Iñaki. Thoughtful, the transalpine skier took a few seconds to express his doubt: “Why haven’t you dedicated yourself to surfing then?” Alexandros Ginnis, born in Athens 28 years ago, began his sports career defending the colors of the United States, since he has dual nationality, but in 2020 he resigned from the all-powerful North American team and joined the Greek team. In his case, as happened to Ochoa de Olza, he has lost count of the times he has been asked how someone so Mediterranean has been determined for years to be someone in the world of alpine skiing, a preserve of Americans, French, Austrians, Italians or norwegians. Ginnis is the unexpected revelation of this season whose World Cup ends this weekend in Andorra.

And the entire circuit rubs its eyes and rejoices, because it has been embedded among the elite in an almost handmade way. Second in the Chamonix World Cup event on February 4 and silver medal in the Courchevel World Cup two weeks later — it is the first medal in the history of Greece in winter sports, both in a World Cup and in the Olympic Games— very few were already expecting him, with six knee operations behind him (four of the anterior cruciate ligament and two of the meniscus, all except the last one in the left knee) and without the umbrella of the powerful structure of the US national team , which he left three years ago because, apart from cutting his financial support, “things there did not go well for me.” The Greek ski federation welcomed him enthusiastically, announcing in passing that they had no money to offer him either. Ginnis had been close to giving up the competition, but he always believed that he could give a little more if his knees didn’t give out. NBC hired him as a commentator during the past winter games in China. He was almost a former skier then, but upon his return he considered that he was not finished… nor ready to watch skiing on TV.

“My father was a ski teacher in Greece, and teaching my mother they fell in love, first, and got married later. Skiing has always been part of our family life: on weekends when I was very little we skied in Greece at the Arachova resort near Mount Parnassos and when we could afford it we went skiing in the Alps. At the age of 12 we moved to Austria in the winter for my father to work in the local stations, and there I began to compete. At first he was terrible, because although he skied well he had never competed. But I fell in love with racing, ”he says with a laugh. On the phone, he remarked on his humble speech and his education.

Ginnis, at a press conference this week in Andorra.
Ginnis, at a press conference this week in Andorra.

When Alexandros turned 15, the whole family moved to the United States. His dual nationality allowed Ginnis to study in North America and join his national team in 2012. In 2015 he was a bronze medalist in the slalom event at the junior world championships in Hafjel (Norway). Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. Everything except his knees, which kept breaking. “I suffered my first serious injury at the age of 17, and many others followed… At the beginning I was very young and I made many mistakes: I did not listen to advice or recommendations. Now I take it as a team game between my body, my doctors and my physical therapists. I have understood that they want the best for me and if something is not going well I have to say so and look for other options. Now that I have learned to pay attention to them, everything works, ”he admits.

His last name is in vogue on the circuit, a success he began to dream of when last November he verified two things: that his knees were holding up and that he was skiing faster and stronger than ever before. “My second place in Chamonix was crazy, but the World Cup is extra pressure. I remember that when I crossed the line I looked at the marker and saw that it was 12 and I told myself that I hadn’t pushed hard enough and hadn’t arrived. But I was wrong: it was not 12 but 2, silver medal! She has no words to describe the feeling of relief and happiness that she experienced.

With everything, he continues juggling to raise financial support to continue on the circuit. “Skiing is an extremely expensive sport, as we all know. All the money that comes in comes from my sponsors, and it’s stressful to spend it wisely. When I was in the American team for years I had a lot of help, a great team behind me. Right now I don’t have many economic possibilities, but we have found a way to get ahead: I travel by van with my two helpers, we go to apartments instead of going to hotels, we cook in turns… but it is surely working for us because we love what we do and we had fun doing it.” It is a team of three in which Ginnis is the athlete and the fundraiser; Gaby Coulet, born in Chamonix, is the coach and organizer who left a wonderful job in Canada to help him, while Sandy Vietz is responsible for “everything” and they haven’t been apart since they met at the ski school in Vermont. “They are my best friends,” he sums up, as if implying that this explains his comfort on the wire. “And if you look at the photos when a famous skier wins, he and 50 other people from his team are on the podium, whereas when I won silver in the World Cup, there were only the three of us on the podium. It made me laugh, ”he recalls.

Ginnis doesn’t consider himself living a dream. He lives so attached to reality that he prefers to keep a certain distance: “It’s nice to see that your goals are met, that all the work you have done has been worth it. When it comes to skiing, with all the problems I’ve suffered with my knees, the low moments have been really low and now success is a rush, so I’m learning to live in the golden mean, without the negative being drama or success drives me crazy. Greece doesn’t give him money, but they don’t put pressure on him either, so he has two ideas in mind: work as hard as possible and have fun… and if nothing goes wrong, be competitive in the 2026 Games and go for medals without let no one be surprised.

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