Queralt Castellet: “Without enjoying it, it is impossible to progress”

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The eyes of Queralt Castellet (Sabadell, 1989), silver medalist in halfpipe at the Beijing Olympics, shine when he talks about his sport, because beyond the victories and the disappointments, snowboarding is his great passion and he cannot conceive of progressing without enjoying on top of your board. After becoming the fifth Spanish athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics, Castellet reviews in an interview with EFE the arduous path to success, the ins and outs behind an Olympic metal and future plans, which include maintaining the level with a view to the Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo games in 2026.

– Has winning an Olympic medal changed your life?

– It hasn’t changed me. I’m going to continue training, I’m going to take advantage of the best part of the year, which starts now in spring. As soon as I can, I’ll be off to Switzerland to take advantage of the spring and softer snow conditions. There are thousands of tricks that I have not wanted to do in the first part of the season for fear of getting injured in the ‘pipe’ (tube) with harder snow conditions. Now I have the opportunity to loosen up a bit, to snowboard without pressure, without fear of falling, getting injured and skipping training days. I am looking forward to continuing the process.

– Many have described his silver won in Beijing as a reward for persistence. How would you rate it?

– It is an Olympic medal, it is the most important competition that exists and for me it is the result of a job well done, of many years of dedication and passion for snowboarding by someone who really loves this sport and respects the environment.

– It could also be described as a miracle considering that in Spain there is no infrastructure to practice halfpipe. Do you consider that this medal has more value for this reason?

– Mine is an exceptional case. In other countries they value it and understand that it is not normal. Now you know me; I am a person who from the beginning decided to accept all the opportunities that came my way and these were not in Spain, I had to leave. For this reason, I know so many people from abroad who, within the possibilities, have always helped me. I have been welcomed into a community where we help each other a lot and that has been very good. Since I was little I had to look for facilities outside of Spain and that has not been easy, so I have to be proud of having won a medal.

– Do you think that your medal can help Spain get its act together so that winter athletes with potential can compete without having to leave the country?

– From this medal, all winter sports federations have an extra motivation. They sure know how to push snowboarding and the halfpipe discipline, which is the most difficult to practice in this country. The first step is the facilities.

– His passion for snowboarding comes from afar. His parents were one of the pioneers of this sport in Spain. How do you remember the beginning of it?

– During the week I did gymnastics and on weekends we went up to practice snowboard. I did gymnastics because I was a very energetic person, I loved to jump and do somersaults. When I started snowboarding, I found the sensations that I like so much, such as risk or adrenaline. Also, I did it in the mountains and that’s what threw me the most. Little by little I was improving in competitions and achieving results because I love to compete. In my family the culture of snowboarding has been present from the beginning.

– How do you think your experience influenced the first four Olympic events prior to Beijing?

– The format of the Olympic Games is almost the same as in any World Cup, but the atmosphere that is breathed and the fact of representing your country causes you to have another type of ‘chip’. All that makes the competition completely different. From the opening ceremony until the competition begins. I don’t know why, but Olympic finals have never gone well for me. I arrived in Beijing knowing that it was a different competition, but that could not influence me. I had to focus on snowboarding.

– How important was the change of coach a few months before the Olympic Games?

– Changed a lot. In all these years, Benny Bright (his former coach) has been essential. After changing coaches he was a bit scared being so close to the Olympics, but he had no choice. The change was positive and it was shown that everything he was learning came out anyway. With Danny Kass (his new trainer for him) I have another perspective. I believe that changes are always for the better and even more so when you are trained by someone with as much experience in halfpipe and as much knowledge as Danny (Kass). This change had to go well yes or yes, but it is also true that I have begun to reap the rewards after four years with Benny Bright. With Danny Kass I have taken advantage of this inertia.

– The preparation was also marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. How did it affect you?

– The pandemic made us stop everything scheduled. A lot of events were canceled and I had to have a more flexible mindset to prepare the schedule. I began to value much more the days I had to train and compete. Every day in the snow I made the most of it and valued it gratefully.

– To this was added that in Beijing he could not count on his coach or his physiotherapist. Do you think they are details that give even more value to this silver?

– My team is made up of my physiotherapist, my coach and a court assistant. Three days before I left for Beijing, my physical therapist told me that he couldn’t attend because he had a personal problem. The Spanish Federation of Winter Sports helped me with a physiotherapist who advanced the trip. I went to Beijing without my physical therapist and I said to myself: ‘at least once there I will meet Danny Kass’. But once in China he called me and told me that he had tested positive for coronavirus in the second test. However, I was not scared and I took it quite well, it was as if I had gotten used to unexpected news. Somehow I told myself: ‘you can face it in a negative way or take advantage of the fact that you are going to be alone to meet people who are in the same situation as you and who want to enjoy the event’. And that is what I did. I adapted, I was more sociable and open to meeting people from other countries, and I attended other events of the Olympic Games. In a sense, that suited me quite well.

– And the end came. How did he prepare her psychologically?

– When I passed the first round, I was a bit flustered, nervous and confused by the score received. And I wondered what I wasn’t doing right. I couldn’t see what the rivals were doing and Danny Kass wasn’t there to tell me. I knew there was a fine line between putting everything good in one package and concentrating it all in that second round, or putting everything good, everything bad, everything that was happening at the time and waiting to see what happened in the final. . The latter is what usually happens at a time like this. It is very difficult to concentrate only on what you can do and the positive that you can get at that moment, but in that second round I was able to gather only the positive, focus on what lay ahead and remember the illusion that it had brought me. to Beijing.

– Who did you think of when the silver medal was confirmed?

– I think of my friends and family, who I know are tachycardic at home, watching me suffer, and who are surely crying and celebrating the medal. I remember them because they have been everything from the beginning. Then I remember all my way, all the times I’ve been through, I remember especially the bad times.

– And, from now on, how do you face the future?

– The success of the Games has come thanks to a progression, to a job done, guided by a passion; a love for the sport that is indescribable. I like snowboarding, not just halfpipe. Now, I want to go to Switzerland and jump, surely in a few days I will want to remove the edges of the board and make railings. If it snows, I want to go to the mountains with my friends and find virgin snow. I’m looking forward to that because it’s what I like most about snowboarding. I’m not thinking about the next event, or my next goal, I’m thinking about snowboarding. When I’m in front of a jump or when I’m in the pipe I know the technical targets and tricks will start to come out.

– Do you think that without enjoying your sport it is possible to progress?

– Without enjoying it is impossible to progress. You can progress but up to a point, there is no continuity. What snowboarding brings me is not just medals.

– So, if you continue to enjoy snowboarding in the coming years, do you see yourself competing in the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympic Games?

– The year 2026 is too close. The next Olympic Games are coming soon. I hope that when they arrive I have taken advantage of these years to have an even higher level than I have now.

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