Try as he might, Yuri Danilochkin will never win the Streif. The 23-year-old ski racer, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, has plenty of desire: His mother, Natali, a former ski racer herself, taught him how to ski, and he is proud to represent Belarus in the World Cup. What he lacks is funding and resources. Natali is Yuri’s trainer, physiotherapist and one-woman management and support team, accompanying her son from Minsk to the Alps, and then from one ski resort to the next. And she does his laundry as well.
Danilochkin is a talented skier, but he has to perform under totally different conditions than his competitors. While they have a virtually inexhaustible pool of skis, bindings and ski boots at their disposal, and an army of doctors, sports scientists and support staff at their beck and call, this mother-and-son team have nobody but themselves to rely on. In Minsk, Yuri trains on the streets, supported by his friends from a “street workout” gang. He hardly gets any money from the ski federation, and just a small amount from a private sponsor. Sometimes Yuri and Natali sleep in their VW Sharan because they can’t afford a hotel.
At first this unlikely pair from Belarus was regarded with amusement by the athletes from established skiing nations. But by now Yuri has earned the respect of his colleagues – because of his courage and because he keeps going at it against all odds.