Skier Askel Lund Svindal immortalized -- with the help of Korean mythology

Aksel Lund Svindal chased down the slope by a Korean white tiger.

Story highlights

  • Markus Berger's project blends photography with Korean art
  • Norwegian champion Askel Lund Svindal is featured

(CNN)Askel Lund Svindal won't just have his gold medal to remember from PyeongChang 2018.

The 35-year-old Norwegian skier, who finally added Olympic gold to his five World Championship wins, is the center piece of Austrian sports photographer Markus Berger's ambitious project to blend photography with traditional Korean art.
Portrait of Aksel Lund Svindal by Austrian photographer Markus Berger.
Svindal famously missed out on gold by 0.07 seconds at Vancouver 2010 while four years later at Sochi he failed to medal at all, finishing in fourth place.
    Berger thought that the Norwegian could do with a little bit of luck for the PyeongChang Games and went to work portraying Svindal as being chased by a white tiger.
    In Korean mythology, the white tiger is a sacred creature that drives away evil spirits and has a particularly strong bond with the mountain spirit.
    Berger depicts the tiger as Svindal's guardian on the slope, and the Austrian says the animal reflects the Norwegian skier's calm character but also his fierce streak.
    Svindal isn't the only athlete to be mythologized Korean style.
    Snowboarder Mark McMorris and a phoenix.
    Canada's Mark McMorris is pictured under the wings of a phoenix, Korea's "King of Birds." The rising from the ashes analogy is apt, as a horrific accident left the 24-year-old snowboarder with a fractured jaw, a ruptured spleen, 17 broken bones and a collapsed lung.
    Yet just 11 months later McMorris stood on the Olympic podium in Pyeongchang with a gleaming bronze medal in hand for the men's slopestyle final.
    Anna Gasser and a Korean dragon.
    Austrian snowboarder, Anna Gasser, comes face to face with an Imoogi, a Korean dragon. Berger says this stands for complex emotions such as devotion, kindness, and gratitude.
    Gasser was tipped as one of the favorites for gold at the Games, after a strong season and being named Austrian sportsperson of the year for 2017, but fell on both runs in Korea.
    Marcus Kleveland snowboarding with a monkey.
    Norway's Marcus Kleveland is portrayed with a monkey, that stands for brilliance, perseverance and also playfulness. This is Kleveland's first Olympics, and aged 18 he has nothing to prove.
    "For Marcus winter is just one big playground," says Berger of Kleveland, who will be one to watch in the Men's Big Air.
    Berger's initial idea was portray the Olympians in a comic style, but the Austrian photographer reluctantly acknowledged that manga is "100% Japanese."
    "There is no specific comic style that Korea is globally known for," he says. "Therefore our research led us to traditional Korean painting, sketching and calligraphy."
    Berger teamed up with a Korean artist Chan Jun Jung and they started to mix their two starkly different art forms.
    "Each and every creature has its own meaning and story," says Berger. "It complements the imagery by visualizing each individual story behind the athletes making their way to the Olympics."
      "We created a story behind the images by adding creatures that either live in Korea or are deeply bound to Korean mythology," says Berger.

      Other athletes featured in Berger's project include:

      Austrian ski jumper Gregor Schlierenzauer is pictured with the common kestrel, to represent elegance, danger and speed.
      Swedish skiier Jesper Tjäder is depicted with a Korean dragon.
      Freestyle skier Lisa Zimmermann is beside a Unicorn lion, supposed to represent the female spirit surviving in a male dominated sport.