Powerhouse Austrian team poses threat
December 13, 2013
BEAVER CREEK — If it's any indication of the state of Austrian ski racing, nearly every roster on http://www.fantasyskiracer.com boasts an Austrian skier.
The fantasy ski racing site, with an ever-growing number of players that include the ski racers themselves, has fans picking their top 10 racers, and points are added up depending on how racers perform that week. This week, players who had Austria's Hannes Reichelt were treated to a second-place finish in the downhill, with Max Franz not far behind in 10th. Prospects may continue through the Beaver Creek race weekend with giant slalom specialist Marcel Hirscher at the start gate on Sunday.
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In short, the Austrian powerhouse team, usually a medal threat in multiple disciplines, is having a successful start to the season, and the team boasts such a deep bench that even a couple World Cup podiums might not be enough to guarantee a spot on the Olympic team.
"In Austria, it's such a battle to get to the Olympics," said Reichelt, who finished behind Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal at the Birds of Prey downhill on Friday. "With Aksel, he can ski and relax, because there aren't that many ski racers in Norway, but we don't do that. Second place here doesn't guarantee you to be on the team. You have to push hard, then if you do well, you're on the team."
Marcel Hirscher is also in the contention for overall World Cup points, but in a less conventional way. Last season, he won the World Cup overall title with six wins, almost completely in technical events. He also took the slalom title and was runner-up in giant slalom.
In the current World Cup overall standings, the top 15 is loaded with Austrian skiers. Hirscher is second, Reichelt is third, Matthias Mayer, Georg Streitberger and Franz are eighth, ninth and tenth respectively, Klaus Kroell is 13th and Mario Matt is 15th.
Those results are despite a number of injuries over the last few years. Hirscher broke his ankle before the World Championships in 2011, but returned to a successful 2012 season and started off the current season with a slalom win in Levi, Finland.
Reichert had a back injury that he still deals with now.
"I'm feeling good at the moment, and hopefully it will stay the same over the whole season," he said. "Sometimes I do have to take painkillers, and it hurts after GS. GS is really hard on my back."
Franz is a younger team member and hasn't yet gone to the Olympics, but had promising results both at Beaver Creek and at Lake Louise, Alberta, last week, placing in the top 10 in both super-G and downhill.
"We did very well in (training) in Chile and over the last few weeks," he said of the men's team. "We were very happy with the results of second and tenth at Beaver Creek. We're very good, but we will have to see how the season goes."
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.