Austria’s Reichelt looks to be speed contender |

Austria’s Reichelt looks to be speed contender

Melanie Wong
Austrian Hannes Reichelt fights to keep his skis on the ground during Birds of Prey downhill training in Beaver Creek on Thursday. Reichelt placed third in training No. 2, and should be a contender for the top step of the podium.
Townsend Bessent | |

BEAVER CREEK — Austria is home to a number of superstar skiers, but the most seasoned superstar among them who is still on the slopes is undoubtedly 35-year-old Hannes Reichelt.

The speed specialist is quick to point out, however, that teammate Klaus Kroell is older still.

“I’m happy that Klaus Kroell is three months older than me,” he said.

But joking aside, Reichelt is still skiing hard, posting fast times and gunning realistically for podiums while many other speed skiers his age are retiring or, like Bode Miller, on a racing hiatus. In fact, Reichelt says there are still things he’d like to accomplish in the downhill arena and that he wouldn’t mind trying to extend his reign as super-G world champion. He found notable downhill success last season, winning at Kvitfjell, Norway; Garmisch, Germany; and Wengen, Switzerland.

Reichelt has a special relationship with the Beaver Creek super-G course — he’s the reigning super-G champ at Birds of Prey, and he’s stood on the podium for the event at Beaver Creek six times in the past decade, if you count the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in February. However, there’s frustration in his voice as he says that he hasn’t had the same success on the downhill course.

“I’ve only done well in the super-G (here). It’s tough for me in downhill,” he said.

On Thursday’s training day, Reichelt was looking fast, although he said he has a perennial struggle to take advantage of the steep portions of the Beaver Creek course.

“I need to find the right line between being aggressive and safety. If I can find that line, a lot is possible for (this weekend),” he said.

While he’s still looking to be among the top racers, he admits that the most difficult part of being an older racer is losing the aggressive edge.

“With age, it’s more difficult to find the limit. If you’re getting older, you’re thinking more about safety and so on, and that is a handicap for skiing aggressively. It’s a hard thing to get to that 100 percent and not think too much about safety,” he said.

Ski racing royalty

Many American fans may be unfamiliar with his name, but at home in Austria, Reichelt is somewhat of a celebrity.

At Beaver Creek, you can catch him walking around the village in his team jacket, and he’s mostly left alone. At home in Austria, where ski racing is an immensely popular sport, he can’t do that without getting considerable attention.

The relative calm and quiet of the American ski-racing scene is a pleasant change in the midst of the season, he said.

“If I (walked around in my team jacket) in Austria somewhere, you can’t drink your coffee. I wouldn’t like it if it was always quiet like here. I think I’d miss it. But during the tour, coming to Beaver Creek is a perfect break,” he said.

Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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