Rock star or ski star? Tough decision, at least for Rainer "Rasta Man" Schoenfelder.
For the past three years, Schoenfelder has been one of the best slalom racers on the Austrian alpine team, and this season he won the World Cup opener at Park City. Two years ago, the 25-year-old also started a second career as a singer. His first release, a song called "Skiing," hit the top of Austria's pop charts. And his second single, "Pop Music" (a remake of a hit by the '70s band M), is moving up the charts. At ski races, Schoenfelder often serenades the crowd during the numbers ceremony (the drawing to choose start order), and his songs are played in the finish corrals of many World Cup venues in Europe.
"Skiing also has much to do with show," Schoenfelder says. "Sport is show and show is sport. I use my music as preparation to ski. Skiing is still my favorite, but music is my second favorite and I cannot say if these two things will change order."
Beneath the dreads and behind the Bono-knockoff shades, Schoenfelder is cherub-faced and, at 5 foot 7 inches, is elfin among the giant Austrian ski racers. In a world that demands near-military discipline, the spontaneous skier frequently stands alone.
"Skiing is conservative and I don't like conservative things," he admits. When Schoenfelder takes the stage with four comely dancers, amid the wildly appreciative shrieks of female fans, "conservative" is the last thing that comes to mind. "Most of my fans are girls, and I am a little proud of that," he says. "Even though I have a girlfriend, it makes my work more interesting."
His coaches, however, have been less enamored than the fans. "At first they were surprised and worried that my singing would hurt my skiing performance," he says. "Then they saw that I am able to combine the two well. Since my victory at Kitzbühel, they decided to support it."
June 13, 1977 in Bleiburg, Austria.
Get Gargling, Nobis:
Schoenfelder says he thinks other professional skiers should try the rock star concept because it's "interesting for spectators and sponsors."
No "Ganja Rasta:
Though he wears his hair in dreadlocks, Schoenfelder says he isn't a Rastafarian, unless you define it as "a funny little spontaneous guy."
Podiums Ìber Alles:
"As an Austrian, it is not arrogant to expect to win every race. If you are on the team, you know that you are one of the best in the world."