It wasn’t his first trip to the podium, but it was definitely his most memorable.
Carina Edlinger gives her medal to her guide dog
Credit: Lintao Zhang / Getty

Being an Paralympian is the culmination of years of hard work, sweat, and dedication. Few athletes ever make it to the Paralympic level, and even then, only three can earn a medal in any given event. So needless to say, making the podium is a moment no athlete will ever forget.

For Paralympic cross-country skier Carina Edlinger, her bronze medal performance was not only a lifetime achievement for her but also for Riley, her faithful companion and guide dog. And it was not one that Edlinger was going to let go uncelebrated.

After winning bronze in the Women's Middle Distance Vision Impaired (Free) event, the Austrian skier and her guide, Lorenz Josef Lampl, were presented to the cheering crowd during the medal ceremony. The pair took turns placing their medals around one another's necks, but Edlinger wasn't done there. Reaching into her coat pocket, she pulled out a third, smaller medal, and leaned down to place it around the neck of the faithful black Lab, who took his accolade with dignity and a slight tail wag.

This wasn't the first trip to the podium for Edlinger, Lampl and Riley. On March 9, the trio won gold in the Women's Sprint Vision Impaired (Free) event. Riley didn't get his own medal in that event, though he was there to take part in the celebration.

Visually impaired skiers are paired with a human guide like Lampl for events, and the pair train as a team, but for Edlinger, Riley's inclusion was not a matter of debate. "I would definitely not have flown [to Bejing] without him, that was my criterion," Edlinger said, speaking to the Austrian Paralympic Committee website. "He just belongs to me and is much more than just a guide dog."