Germans on the Streif in Kitzbühel: It suddenly slips again – sport

The tubular steel grandstand at the foot of the Hahnenkamm had already been largely cleared of celebrities and those who thought they were, when the race started all over again. The drivers with the higher start numbers, who otherwise fill up the tableau and drive on a battered track, now shook the best time of Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr more and more violently. This time the later start was a privilege, because clouds and snow had also cleared away. The most committed was a certain Florian Schieder, 27, from Kastelruth, who apparently not only, well, produces committed folk musicians. Schieder fell so badly at the 2021 World Cup that he had to have three surgeries, and before this Friday he was never better than 13th on a World Cup downhill. And now: Second place, 0.23 seconds separated him from Kriechmayr, not even a twitch. Who knows what punch lines the race would have come up with if it hadn’t been interrupted for a long time shortly after, after Norway’s Henrik Roea broke his leg.

So the hosts, at least with their best, glided perfectly into their prestigious race weekend – after some turbulence that Austria’s officials had sparked in recent weeks. And the downhill skiers of the German Ski Association (DSV) sent a few encouraging signals on Friday. Most recently in Val Gardena, Bormio and Wengen they said half of their team was on sick leave, then “for whatever reason they lost the thread”, as head coach Christian Schwaiger complained on Thursday. And even if it blew their best a little backwards on Friday – Thomas Dreßen in 13th placeAndreas Sander in 15th place – so they at least provided some evidence for the thesis that sometimes it doesn’t take much to turn things positive again.

Dreßen is running a bit outside of the rankings this winter anyway: the Kitzbühel winner from 2018 had not competed in a World Cup race for almost 1000 days; for him it is already a win that he has made it back into the sport. Dreßen then injured himself again in Gröden, on his thigh, but he defied something positive even after the renewed time-out: he thought about his start to the season again, the very good eighth place in Lake Louise and the less good yields afterwards. “I just got too greedy,” said Dreßen. He tried to plagiarize the lines of Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Marco Odermatt, the best of the previous winter, only: Even in the best of times, Dreßen never rushed to the gates as directly as the industry leaders, he often drove further afield, but who did it skilfully, building up a lot of speed, momentum for momentum. “I will no longer change my driving style now that I am almost old,” said Dreßen, at the almost biblical age of 29. He just had to “find my way” again.

He presented the corresponding blueprint on Friday. Then he slipped to the start and thought: “Have fun, fuck what comes out.” He quickly felt that the slope was different from the days before, that he had to move the skis “minimally”, it catapulted him out of every curve. At such moments, Dreßen caresses the snow almost as well as the best emotional skiers, then he has fun, “and when I have fun, it just slides,” he said. He decided in his analysis that he couldn’t ask for much more in his job as a ski racer. This is how someone speaks who has learned how quickly it can be over in his sport.

The other German starters lined up further behind

Dreßen’s colleagues are knitted a little differently; they build up their best form longer, like a snowball that gets bigger and bigger the longer you push it through the landscape. “Before a race, I haven’t had such a chaotic day in my head as yesterday,” admitted Andreas Sander on Friday, and if you understood him correctly, the story behind it went something like this: His ski outfitter recently gave him a brand new model provided, but instead of making Sander go faster, the pilot felt uncomfortable on the new battens. He went back to an old, apparently slower model, but just knowing how fast he used to be with it “apparently” helped him, Sander said.

And otherwise? Romed Baumann, lately often on the move, made a mistake in the traverse on Friday, rank 32. Dominik Schwaiger, one of the most constant drivers last winter, had it even worse, but most recently he was consistently off track. “It may be that I put a bit of pressure on myself to make it into the top ten,” said Schwaiger, “then the careless mistakes come.” On Friday he almost went into the net and was 55th. Josef Ferstl, the Kitzbühel winner from 2019 in the Super-G, is now 49. A week ago Ferstl was already through the goal in Wengen with his injured shoulder in the S finish rustled. “Actually inexplicable how you drive such a swing,” said head coach Schwaiger.

Kilde narrowly avoids the safety fence

Inexplicable? Well, Schwaiger continued, “in downhill skiing, the head is what tires most easily”. A mistake, already the insecurity strikes deep roots. Especially when the job is to rush across an ice rink at 140 km/h, week in and week out.

On Friday, Marco Odermatt and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde demonstrated how quickly the best get caught. Odermatt, the exceptional talent from Switzerland, crouched so low on the steep slope that it almost catapulted him into the net – at the finish he threw on a black overall and hobbled out of the stadium, canceling his start for Saturday. And Kilde, winner of four downhill runs this winter, had already broken his wrist in training on Thursday, and now he almost flew into the safety fence after the traverse. “It was close to catastrophe,” said the Norwegian. The next ride: wait for this Saturday.

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