EMANUEL Oppliger is carving up the slopes, sliding through turns and landing jumps with the Australian snowboarding team at the Winter Olympic Games ... from Toormina.
The 2006 Australian Winter Olympian says he’s ‘living’ the Vancouver Games and cheering on the Aussie athletes from his armchair.
Four years ago Emanuel was in the thick of it at the Turin Games, finishing 15th in the men’s giant slalom snowboard.
“It is a great feeling and a big rush competing at a Winter Olympics. I was proud to represent Australia, even though it was not my home country at the time,” Emanuel said.
Born in Coffs Harbour and raised in Europe, he mastered the sport in the Swiss Alps, landing the opportunity to represent his country of birth.
“When I walked into the arena, wearing the green and gold, the crowd were yelling Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi, but I didn’t know what they were saying back then,” Emanuel said.
“After I qualified for the Aussie team from the World Cup, I made sure I could sing the national anthem just in case I made the podium.
“I was so proud to represent Australia at the Winter Olympics and after the Games I made sure our family moved here to find out more about the country I was born in.”
Emanuel’s Olympic run in 2006 was ended in the finals by fellow Swiss snowboarder and gold medal winner Philipp Schoch, who is favoured to win next week’s Vancouver event.
A long way from the slopes in Coffs, Emanuel has traded his snowboard for a surfboard. A master craftsman in carpentry, he’s even turned his hand to the commercial manufacture of wooden surfboards made from paulownia.
“Yeah there’s not much snow here on the coast, but since my wife, Kathrin, and I moved here a year ago, we’ve loved it,” he said.