RETIREMENT has come with the realisation of the joys of family life for Paralympic skier Cameron Rahles-Rahbula.
The dual bronze medallist, formerly of Camperdown, is relishing the freedom of life away from elite-level skiing after calling time on a decorated career.
His retirement, confirmed after the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi in March, has given him more time to spend with wife Emily and two-year-old son Archie.
And he’s found himself enjoying every minute of it. At this time in any of the past 10 years, Rahles-Rahbula would have been preparing for a winter on the slopes.
“That’s the biggest challenge as an alpine racer, you do have to spend so much time away from home,” he said yesterday.
“Coming into Sochi, whether I performed well or didn’t, I was always going to retire after the Games.”
Rahles-Rahbula, these days of Geelong, made a popular homecoming last night when he was the feature guest at South West Sport’s annual awards night.
His presence at Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre gave a sense of “full circle” to the career of one of the region’s most successful athletes.
Rahles-Rahbula, then a teenager, received an achievement award at the same function 11 years ago as his burgeoning career started to gather momentum.
“To be able to contribute in some way and speak about my experiences is a nice thing. I really enjoy getting back towards home,” he said.
Rahles-Rahbula, who lost his left leg to cancer when he was 14, said he looked back on his career with pride.
He won two bronze medals at the 2010 Winter Paralympics at Vancouver while he won five world championships medals, three of them gold, in 2004 and 2009.
Rahles-Rahbula also carried the Australian flag at the opening ceremony in Sochi, 36 hours after fracturing the top of his tibia during training.
The injury meant his Paralympics swansong was over before it seriously started. But Rahles-Rahbula said he had been “blessed with my career”.
“There was a little hiccup at the end but alpine skiing, there’s always challenges and always injuries and you can’t pick the timing of those injuries,” he said.
“But overall I’ve had a wonderful career and some great experiences and have had some wonderful opportunities to race around the world and represent the country.
“I’ve shared a lot of time with a lot of fantastic athletes, not just from Australia but other countries. It’s been a real privilege to do that.”
Rahles-Rahbula said he hoped to remain involved with the Australian Winter Paralympics team in some form down the track.
His advice to young athletes who graced the stage last night — just as he did 11 years ago — was to make the most of their talent.
“The difference between the good athletes and the very best athletes isn’t necessarily talent,” he said.
“Often it’s the hard work and the dedication and the stuff away from the track.”