By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Snowboarder Lluis Marin had dreamed of winning Andorra's first Olympic medal but an injury suffered last month means his chances of a podium place have gone from realistic to remote.
The 25-year-old's rise to near the top of the relatively new Olympic sport, including a third place in snowboard cross at the Valmalenco World Cup race in 2012, had raised hopes that he could also claim a podium finish for the tiny principality at the February 7-23 Winter Games in Sochi.
However, now a top 20 place in the snowboard cross discipline would be more realistic at the event on February 17 after he damaged shoulder ligaments in early January.
"Basically I will just go out and do the best I can as I'm not 100 percent," Marin told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I was thinking of a medal but now I would be very happy finishing among the first 12," he added.
"It is a massive disappointment for me. I have not been able to train properly since I injured my shoulder in Andorra and it was such a basic mistake I made as well, as I crashed into the barriers at the finishing line of a race.
"It was always going to be difficult though to get a medal as there is a lot of competition.
"It is a growing sport with a lot of people coming in and pushing the standard up.
"I fly out on Monday but my preparation has not been good either physically or mentally."
The principality of Andorra, which nestles between France and Spain, is less than 500 kilometers squared but has 65 peaks higher than 2,500 meters.
"I started snowboarding when I was 12 and loved it right away," Marin said.
"I had skied at school but snowboarding was perfect for me and the conditions are good enough in Andorra to practice.
"The courses are not perfect though for snowboarding and so when necessary I go to the Alps.
"To begin with I tried all the different snowboard events but snowboard cross was the best for me.
"When I was 18 I had to decide between going to Barcelona to study or to snowboard and I have been competing since.
"The training involves doing a lot of physical preparation in the summer and then from September onwards practicing on the snow."
Marin was Andorra's flag bearer at the 2010 Olympics but he also had an injury at that event and after falling finished down in 34th place.
"It was a great honor for me to carry the flag. Since then I have improved a lot and so it is a big blow that I can't compete now," he said.
"I wouldn't like to say who is favorite for gold as a lot of the other competitors have also suffered injuries which have affected their preparation like Alex Pullin and there are other new faces that are coming through."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)