Fame flickers with a winning wink
China Daily

Mirza Nikolajev of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Luger reflects on joyous Games after becoming online hit

"I will never forget the friendly and hospitable atmosphere in Beijing," Mirza Nikolajev, a 20-year-old luger from Bosnia and Herzegovina, told Xinhua upon his return home from the Olympic Winter Games on Tuesday.

At the Olympic Village in Beijing "everybody was always so cheerful and smiling all the time. They did their best to make you feel at home," Mirza said in a video interview.

"I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet the bobsleigh teams from Brazil and the United States and the women's monobob athletes from the Netherlands. As is customary at the Olympic Games, we all exchanged badges, and I'm proud to say that ours were highly sought after," Mirza wrote in a post on the Bosnian Olympic Committee's official website.

He had the honor of carrying his country's flag at the opening ceremony, and won the hearts of lots of fans with his wink to the camera.

"When I left for Beijing I had some 900 followers on Instagram. Today, I have more than 29,000 and counting. It's crazy and flattering at the same time. I cracked quite a few jokes with my girlfriend about the countless compliments I received from girls and the invitations to extend my stay in China," he said upon his return to his hometown Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital, where he received a hero's welcome from his parents, Denis and Amina, brothers Faris and Bakir, and his whole neighborhood.

"My three sons are all athletic types, always eager to try out different sports, such as swimming, judo, handball, basketball, football, skating and skiing," Denis said, explaining that Mirza fell in love with the adrenalin-fueled sport when he was 14.

He got his first taste of luge during a family trip to the Olympic track on Trebevic Mountain near Sarajevo, which was built for the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games but was destroyed during the war in the 1990s. Partial renovations began in 2014, but the site can be used by lugers for summer training only, with sleds on wheels.

"We stumbled upon that summer training course, and his friend's father invited him to try it out. After his first run, Mirza immediately said he found his sport," Denis recalled.

"I have always been an individual rather than a team player," Mirza said, explaining that he loves the adrenaline rush of racing at over 110 kilometers per hour.

"It's just you and no one else. You are on the sled and the helmet is pretty much your only protection," he said, adding that his leg was still swollen and he still had an ice burn from an accident that happened in Latvia in January this year.

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