Austrian cross-country skier Carina Edlinger won the Paralympic gold medal in the women’s vision impaired sprint in the 2022 Beijing games. She raced alongside skiing guide Lorenz Josef Lampl, but Edlinger also credits a lot of her success to her guide dog Riley.
The 5-year-old Labrador helps Edlinger, who is visually impaired, in many ways. Beyond giving her freedom in the face of sight loss, Riley is also Edlinger’s best friend.
Riley And The Beijing 2022 Winter Games
Before winning her medal, Edlinger had to work with the International Paralympic Committee to make sure Riley would be joining her in Beijing. She explained:
“For me, the most important thing coming to China was to bring my dog. If my dog would not have been able to enter China, I would directly fly home.”
Having Riley there, Edlinger said, was essential. Not only is he her guide dog, but he’s her emotional support through the stress of competing.
“I see between 1.5 and 2 per cent, so I am probably the most low-vision athlete who is competing here, so it’s kind of tricky, but he helped me – not only to find my ways but also emotionally over the past couple of days,” Edlinger said.
According to Edlinger, Riley is well-known among the Paralympians. She told the Austrian Paralympic Committee:
“Every volunteer has now taken a selfie with him, it seems to me he’s more famous in the Paralympic Village than the Chinese President. Everyone waves to him and shouts after him, that’s nice. I’m almost used to being number two.”
More Than A Guide Dog
Vision loss is difficult to cope with, but Riley came into Edlinger’s life because of it. In an Instagram post celebrating her dog, she wrote:
“It’s weird to say but probably getting to know the real deep love of my buddy is one of the missions I needed to learn with vision loss. Better to appreciate the bright side and the fact that I wanted a black dog than having a dark mindset.”
As her guide dog, Riley makes so many things possible for Edlinger that vision loss might otherwise make impossible.
“One year ago I couldn’t even imagine how much freedom, independence and life quality Riley could give me back. For me it was an [incredible] hard time and process to accept that my life through vision loss gonna change and I really can’t do something about it. Still it’s a struggle and [handling] daily life isn’t easy but having your best buddy always by your side [brought] a lot of peace in that fight,” she wrote on Instagram.
“He just belongs to me and is much more than just a guide dog,” Edlinger said.