Guide dog Riley Austrian Edlinger’s not-so-secret weapon

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Under the watch of her trusted guide dog Riley, Austrian cross-country skier and biathlete Carina Edlinger added a bronze medal to her Beijing Paralympic medal collection on Saturday after a gold-winning performance earlier in the games.

Edlinger, 23, took third place in the women’s free technique cross-country for the visually impaired, her last of the matches, and Riley had her now usual front-row seats.

On Wednesday, she finished first in the women’s free technique sprint at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Center in northern China.

She entered the games as a strong favorite for medals, but health issues prevented her from completing her biathlon races and one of her three cross-country events.

Austrian cross-country skier Carina Edlinger (right) speaks to the press while holding her guide dog Riley after winning the bronze medal in the women’s free technical middle distance race for the visually impaired at the Beijing Olympics on March 12, 2022. (Kyodo)

Despite all his ups and downs, Riley was there to support him.

“At the end of the day, he sees you as the person you are, whether you’ve won your medal or not. I think that’s the most important thing in life,” Edlinger said after Saturday’s race.

“We love sports, but we should still be a happy person and not forget the other things that matter most,” she added.

Edlinger’s eyesight began to deteriorate in 2010 due to Stargardt disease and now she only has between 1.5 and 2% vision, which Edlinger says makes her probably the most visually impaired athlete in competition. But the presence of her guide dog offers more than just another pair of eyes.

After winning her gold medal earlier in the week, Edlinger said the most important thing for her going into the games was making sure Riley was there.

“If he’s not here, it’s a bad day for me. My dog ​​must be here,” she said.

The Paralympic Games in Beijing were also a coming out party for Riley as he was featured on numerous TV shows when Edlinger took him to the podium during his gold medal celebration with his guide Lorenz Josef lamp.

“(Riley is) there for the whole Para-Nordic team or family. So he’s super famous,” Edlinger said.

But when asked if Riley got anything more from the experience, Edlinger said he had a prize on the way in the form of a plush Shuey Rhon Rhon mascot, just a reward for the help he gave her on her journey to gold.

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