And sometimes the unexpected happens…
Mark Rajack is 36 years old and a citizen of both Trinidad and Tobago and Canada. The year 2012, when he was 30, was the first time that he ever stood on cross-country skis. It all began by chance and that chance has turned into a career: now Mark is a professional cross-country ski racer and recently was chosen to be sponsored by the Olympiaregion Seefeld Tourist Office.
A special kind of cross-country ski racer
When you meet him, you can hardly believe the story that lies behind this man and his skis. Muscular legs working in harmony with the skis that mean the world to him. His smooth motion flowing over the cross-country trails hardly seems to expend any effort – no clue to the fact that for a long time this sport was completely foreign to him.
Mark Rajack lived in Trinidad and Tobago until he was six years old. An offer of work led to his parents moving around 4,000km to the north and the Canadian capital of Ottawa. But the shift to the wintry snows of Canada was not necessarily a reason to learn cross-country skiing. That came a bit later – around 30 years later when the time was ripe for Mark.
Cross-country skiing student at over 30 years of age
But the day finally arrived. Mark stood on skis for the first time and a great passion was born from that clumsy start: “I had absolutely zero technique, it was cold, the skis had the wrong wax on them and I felt like I was moving on eggshells,” he explained when we met up with him for an interview in Seefeld.
Still, friends of his were active in the cross-country scene in Ottawa and gave him a hand to learn the sport in next to no time – and for him to develop his love for the sport. “It took three or four months before I began to think about the concept of skiing for Trinidad and Tobago.” The young athlete couldn’t get this idea out of his mind and made it his main goal in this young cross-country career.
Cross-country skier for the Trinidad and Tobago National Team
It took precisely eighteen months until Mark became a racer for the Trinidad and Tobago National Team. Anyone who has seen the films “Cool Runnings” or “Eddie The Eagle” can’t help but chuckle at this point. The next stroke of luck was the chance meeting with his current trainer Mike Vieira. Mark had no idea who the successful cross-country skiing coach was. “What could I learn from you that anyone else couldn’t teach me?” he asked him in fun that evening. Vieira rose to the challenge. “Give me an hour,” he said. “If you haven’t learned anything by then you’ll never see me again.” After only 20 minutes, Mark’s stamina ran out and he begged for more training sessions. No wonder that the two of them have since formed a strong team.
Never lose sight of your goal
Mark stuck to his task. The goal for 2014 was to learn to cross-country ski ‘properly’ and to take part in local races, which ended up being the North America Cup. The focus for the next year was to reach 300 FIS points, which allowed him to take part in the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Falun!
In 2017 it was time for the Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti. His trainer is proud to explain that Mark continued to display progress: he “didn’t just take part” and instead began to compete and overtake some of the other athletes.
His tireless spirit, his effort, his hours of training and his record are evidence of his development and were a reason for us to offer him another opportunity:
The sponsorship of Mark Rajack
Olympiaregion Seefeld director Elias Walser was immediately impressed by the young athlete. “We were happy to support Mark Rajack and the tremendous efforts that he puts in to be able to cross-country ski. It’s precisely these kinds of stories that make the sport what it is. They are just as important as winning performances,” explains Walser.
Not every person has the advantage of using such perfect training conditions outside their front door as we have here in Seefeld.
Support from all sides
The Seefeld Tourist Office made it possible for Mark Rajack to be in the starting field for the Seefeld Nordic Weekend (Nordic World Cup and Cross-Country Ski Event used as a trial for the 2019 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Seefeld). Mark stayed with his trainer in the Hotel Seespitz in Seefeld. “When Mark saw his room he was really touched,” says hotel director Vinzenz Triendl. “Of course, we could have let it for quite a bit of money during this time, but we were happy to help a young and motivated athlete who wants to fulfil his dreams.” Once he had arrived in Seefeld, the athlete was impressed by our region in the heart of the Alps. “You can get everywhere on foot – that’s incredible,” says Mark. But for him one of the best experiences was one that we take for granted:
“Normal people, not just athletes, are walking around with cross-country skis under their arms. We don’t have that where I come from.” The feeling that everyone in the area can cross-country ski, no matter how good or bad they are, is something special for Mark. As well as the fact that you can ski for 40km at a time, adds trainer Mike. “Sure, you can also do that in Canada. But then you are just completing a circuit again and again. In the woods. Here, if you want to, you can ski from village to village and enjoy a coffee along the way in one of the cosy huts by the side of the tracks,” he says.
On the heels of the world’s best athletes
The anticipation before the day starts to mount. He knows that the start in Seefeld will be a unique experience. On Saturday with the men’s massed start, he can write his own personal success story.
But then everything changes
But then life wouldn’t be life if it didn’t sometimes upset everyone’s hopes and dreams. Mark Rajack can’t make the start because of food poisoning and a bout of flu which bring him to his knees.
Infusions and medication instead of cross-country skis and the start of the World Cup in Seefeld. Mark’s dreams are shattered. He had so looked forward to his appearance in Seefeld. He tries to collect his thoughts and to remain optimistic. “Hopefully there will be another chance to experience an event like this in person.” The young athlete looks to the future and consoles himself with his own personal philosophy. For him, it is not just the goals that he sets himself during his life. “For me it is more about the journey along the way: enjoying every training session, appreciating every moment of happiness that makes your heart beat faster. That’s all far more important and at the end of the day counts for more than a start, a victory or achieving a goal.”
Still, there is an air of disappointment when it comes to Seefeld. Everyone who took part in the World Cup weekend felt it: after all the exciting performances in previous years, this event also lived up to expectations. The nerves tingled as the athletes competed in the arena for the triple crown.
That wasn’t all. The special cross-country World Cup event also took place in Seefeld for the first time since 1999. Top international racers competed in a sprint event on Saturday and a massed start race on Sunday. Sadly, without Mark Rajack at the start for Trinidad and Tobago. Still, no reason to give up: #RoadtoSeefeld2019 – that’s his personal slogan and upcoming journey.
“We are happy to sponsor Mark Rajack as the Olympiaregion Seefeld because he never gives up and is an example to everyone,” explains Elias Walser.
It isn’t your own personal circumstances that dictate what you do with your life. Far more what you make out of them. Make an effort and then something will happen! There’s no better example than this story.
See you soon, Mark!
Photos: Bettina Friedrichs