Situated at a key vantage point at the Rohrmoos snowboarding venue for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria, a large group of students excitedly await the start of competition. As athletes begin to carve their way down the mountain, they listen for the announcement of one of the athlete they have come to see - Mario Horn, #7, from Austria.
They don’t know Mario directly but they are from an elementary school near his home. When they heard Mario had been selected to compete in the Games, several students started talking about coming to the event to watch Mario compete. The conversation grew and suddenly an entire fanbase emerged.
“The Mario’s" created hand-made flags, signs and a huge banner to display during Mario’s race. When his name was announced, they went wild knowing the moment had arrived to support the athlete representing their hometown.
Horn, who had arrived at the venue early that morning with his coach, was stretching and using visualization to prepare for his event, not yet aware of the activities near the base specifically there to see him race.
“After so much rain in the days before I was a little worried about the conditions but the snow was better than I expected during warm-ups,” said Horn. “Setting in at the start, I was pumped, I felt good, I was ready.”
"I jumped hard from the gate, and felt strong concentrating on quickly building my speed. Moving down the shoot, it felt so free, like I was flying.”
Making smooth technical turns throughout his decent, Horn became aware of the dedicated crowd just after the half-way point of the course. The load cheers and shouting of his name made an impression.
“I could hear the crowd shouting ‘Mario, Mario, Mario, go Mario” and it was such a rush - it was incredible, I couldn’t believe it and it made me want to push faster toward the crowd.”
Horn streamed through finish line, throwing his arms in the air then hugging his coach. He was in for a second surprise on race day taking the silver medal in the Super G. Later, taking photos surrounded by family and his surprise fanbase, Horn was all smiles. Friends, family and a medal-wining run. It was a good day.