Rhulani welcomes Swiss Olympic athlete Elias Ambühl
The Swiss professional freestyle skier Elias Ambühl, finalist at the recent Winter Olympics in South Korea, spends with his wife Sarah his first safari holiday at Rhulani Safari Lodge. We took the opportunity for an interview with the well-known sportsman.
Elias, you are a freestyle skier, so you like action, are a “crazy guy”. How is Rhulani Safari Lodge for you, where you basically relax?
It's fantastic. I have just talked to my wife. I was traveling so much in recent years that our relationship and family life suffered. Two months ago we had the Olympic Games. Since we are here, after the morning game drive we go to sleep for two hours. When was the last time I did this? Just turn off the phone and rest. You never do that at home. That's the best here.
It is your first safari, and you have had several game drives in Madikwe. Which animal became your favorite?
Oh, there are so many impressive animals! We did not just want to see the “Big 5” here. With Sean, our ranger, it's just perfect. Everything he tells us is so interesting. Twice we even had a private game drive with him. I am fascinated by the small animals too and want to understand how everything works and interacts in the wilderness. Despite everything, the lions are really very impressive. Last night we had a lion roaring about two meters beside our vehicle. This remains unforgettable.
You got married in June 2016. When your wife Sarah made the reservation she told us that this will be a “delayed honeymoon”. Have you always been so busy?
We were really busy. First the preparation and qualification for the Olympics. Then we bought a house, and a little later opened a bar & restaurant, which blocked us in terms of time and financially. But now we have said to ourselves: let’s take the time and the money and go on vacation, a little further than just to Italy to the sea.
Just when you arrived at Rhulani, we organized a conservation event and picked you up by a helicopter. You saw how we darted a rhino from the air (read more about this activity here). I know, that you are flying a helicopter yourself. What do you think about the skills of the pilot?
It was really cool. We did not know anything about all of that. We arrived, and immediately we were told, get ready, in 10 minutes you will be picked up by a helicopter. That was a big surprise. Flying a helicopter is something completely different here than in Switzerland, where there are so many rules and restrictions. Our pilot was very experienced and had more than 10'000 hours. It was impressive to watch him push the rhino and watch it all from the air.
In February you participated in the Olympic Games in PyeongChang / South Korea, qualified for the final and reached the ninth place. How satisfied are you with your performance?
It was a great experience. I took it much more relaxed than four years earlier in Sochi, where I was run over by the general megalomania around the Olympic Games. I was a little disappointed with my final run as I could not get the best performance. In retrospect, however, I see it as a success that I was able to work my way up through the qualifying of the Top 30 and Top 20 into the final.
On your own website you say about your attitude to life: "’Does not work’, does not exist. There is a way to achieve every goal". What are your next goals?
PyeongChang were my last Olympics. I will concentrate on the production of films and advertising, and I will graduate as a professional pilot, where I still have about a third of the training ahead of me. I have to find a place to fly the required number of hours. So, maybe I will call you then. (he smiles)
Tomorrow your travel through South Africa will continue. What memories will you keep from Rhulani?
The warmth of all the staff, the family atmosphere, and the way you experience the wild nature here. Although it is a reserve, it all seems very wild. We really liked that feeling in the lodge and in the park.
About Elias Ambühl
Elias Ambühl (born 26 March 1992) is a Swiss freestyle skier. He was born in Masein.
He competed in slopestyle at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships 2013. Among the numerous victories and medal ranks in the last 10 years, Ambühl has won four times a bronze at the Winter X Games 2010 in Aspen, Big Air (2010, 2013, 2015, 2016).
Ambühl competed for Switzerland in slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, finishing 22nd. He competed again at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, where he qualified for the slopestyle final along with two fellow Swiss skiers and finished a much improved 9th.
On February 27, 2017, Elias Ambühl set with 131.23 km/h a new speed world record in backward skiing in Arosa / Switzerland. He surpassed the record of the Norwegian Anders Backe, who in 2012 with 128.7 km/h drove down backwards a ski-jump.