European Football Championships, the Olympics and an honorary title: this gala was a well-rounded affair

European Football Championships, the Olympics and an honorary title: this gala was a well-rounded affair
Olympic athletics participant Susanne Gogl-Walli and presenter Tom Walek
Image: cityfoto.at/Roland Pelzl
State Sports Councilor Markus Achleitner and Thomas Dreßen
Image: cityfoto.at/Roland Pelzl
From left: Hannes Trinkl, Hans Enn, moderator Dennis Bankowsky and Reinfried Herbst
Image: Volker Weihbold
Magdalena Lobnig and Liu Jia
Image: cityfoto.at/Roland Pelzl
Franz Bracket and Sandra Reichel
Image: cityfoto.at/Roland Pelzl

When the leather rolls and the five Olympic rings come into play, then you can definitely speak of a well-rounded affair at the gala night of sports in the Brucknerhaus in Linz. Sports greats from all disciplines enriched an event of superlatives that radiates so much warmth.

Former ski star Thomas Dreßen, who ended his career on January 20th at the age of 30 due to persistent knee problems, was clearly feeling very comfortable. Of course in Kitzbühel, where he celebrated his greatest triumph in 2018 with his triumph in the classic Hahnenkamm downhill run.

“That makes me incredibly proud. For me it was a worthy farewell,” said the Bavarian, who was brought to Scharnstein by his love for his Birgit. The two have been parents to a little daughter since June 2023, for whom State Sports Councilor Markus Achleitner has put together a gift package.

State Sports Councilor Markus Achleitner and Thomas Dreßen
Image: cityfoto.at/Roland Pelzl

But that’s not enough. Dreßen was ceremoniously awarded a title; he can now call himself “Upper Austrian ambassador” and perhaps contribute his expertise. “DSV, ÖSV? The doors are open. But the heart is a little more on the German side,” admits the former speed racer. Achleitner is still promoting his state: “We are number 1 when it comes to speed. A few months ago we celebrated a historic double victory – Vincent Kriechmayr ahead of Daniel Hemetsberger.”

Hans Pum, Vice President of Upper Austria’s Ski Association, would of course like some input from Dreßen. But the creator from St. Oswald near Freistadt doesn’t really want to believe in it: “I was very sorry that Thomas Dreßen quit. I believe that Wolfi Maier, boss of the Germans, won’t leave him out.”

In any case, Dreßen was impressed by the ambience in the Brucknerhaus: “I’m a Deitscher, I’m surprised that I’m allowed to be on stage in Upper Austria. I feel like I’m at most half Upper Austrian.” A real one is the very first World Cup winner that the country has to offer: Franz Gruber, the noble technician from Molln, won the slalom in Kranjska Gora on January 30, 1983. The 64-year-old is a regular guest at the gala and followed with interest the ski talk moderated by ORF editor Dennis Bankowsky in the athletes’ lounge.

From left: Hannes Trinkl, Hans Enn, moderator Dennis Bankowsky and Reinfried Herbst
Image: Volker Weihbold

“If a race is lost, it is lost”

The defining issue in times like these is the long list of injuries: “That’s noticeable because a few good ones got hit (Schwarz, Pinturault, Kilde, Vlhova, Shiffrin, note),” said Hannes Trinkl, FIS men’s speed race director . “There will have to be a few changes. In the future it will be like this: if a race is lost, it is lost.” This would not be in the interests of all athletes, but it would be desirable from a safety perspective. There should therefore no longer be three speed races within three days (like the men’s in Wengen or the women’s in Cortina).

Hans Enn, Olympic bronze medalist in 1980, regrets that the many falls mean that “skiing is something totally casual.” “Everything is becoming more aggressive and not easier because the capricious weather is playing its part.”

Former slalom ace Reinfried Herbst assesses the development in the scene as follows: “Nowadays everything is pushed to the limit, the program is becoming too much. But of course there are expectations from sponsors etc. Nevertheless, there is little time for regeneration. I wish “that the words of the athletes have more weight,” said the Salzburg native, who won the small crystal ball for the Slalom World Cup in 2009/10.

“Provided a very good trainer”

Austria’s soccer team also has injury concerns. With David Alaba (torn cruciate ligament) the captain is missing everywhere. The former German national player and sharp-tongued Sky expert Dietmar Hamann also knows this. Nevertheless, he has a lot of confidence in the red-white-red team at the EURO 2024 in Germany in the summer. Question: Why are things going better for Austria than for Germany? Answer: “Because we have provided you with a very good trainer,” said Hamann about Ralf Rangnick. Actually a stroke of luck for the ÖFB.

“I hope that Alaba will be fit for the EURO. France and England are above everyone else, then there are three or four more and then the Austrians,” predicts Hamann: “They should make it to the round of 16. And when that happens , I don’t think there is anyone who wants to play against the Austrians.”

Florian Klein, ex-LASK leading player, EURO participant in 2016 and now Servus TV expert, also has a lot of confidence in the ÖFB team. “The euphoria in the country is something very positive, it is projected onto the team. The most important thing is that you perform. I am very positive. We can already reach the round of 16 or quarter-finals,” emphasized the Linzer.

“We are in love with Upper Austria”

ÖFB President Klaus Mitterdorfer sent best wishes to the sick team boss Rangnick and sang an ode to the state: “We are in love with Upper Austria when it comes to opportunities and infrastructure. The ÖFB has found a home here. Players and coaches feel very strongly in Windischgarsten probably,” reported the Carinthian.

Track and field athlete Susanne Gogl-Walli also enjoys being in Linz, but in the summer there is no way around Paris. The Olympic Games will take place there. The 27-year-old from the TGW Decathlon Union is seeded over 400 meters. “I was always the fastest at school and I still have friendship books in which that was written to me,” said Gogl-Walli, who is married to professional cyclist Michael Gogl. “We don’t get in each other’s way, I can’t keep up when cycling, but he can’t keep up when running.” Point. Out of.

When the Ö3 microman “went down”

Magdalena Lobnig, who won Olympic bronze in the single sculls in Tokyo in 2021, still needs rowing results alongside her older sister Katharina in order to jump on the train to France. Gala presenter Tom Walek noticed that she was in shape. When competing on the Technogym simulator, the Ö3 microman (as expected) had no chance.

Magdalena Lobnig and Liu Jia
Image: cityfoto.at/Roland Pelzl

Table tennis ace Liu Jia can also still dream of her seventh Olympic participation. But this requires a top result at the upcoming World Team Championships in Busan. “I will fight, but it will be difficult,” said the 41-year-old. “Susi” doesn’t want to completely rule out taking part in the home European Championships in Linz in October: “I’ve said so many times that I won’t play anymore. Now I’d rather not say anything at all.”

Paratriathee Florian Brungraber, who as a semi-professional swims 10,000 kilometers a year, in a wheelchair and on a handbike, has focused on the Paralympics in Paris: “There’s a lot at stake.” He already has silver. Will the gold coup now follow?

Motorsport ace Thomas Preining is the reigning DTM champion and is constantly on the move. “We have a very high level in our sport. I’m proud to be at the front. Postscript: “If I drive a race, I want to win it too,” the Linzer speaks of pure ambition.

“Strong signal effect for women’s sport”

Sandra Reichel, the tennis director of the Upper Austria Ladies in Linz, is still “flashed” by the event, which was held for the first time in WTA 500 status and which ended on Sunday. “I’m overwhelmed, it’s a dream come true,” said the woman from Wels. “I haven’t fully processed it yet, it was crazy. This tournament has such a strong signal effect for women’s sport,” added Reichel. And: “The atmosphere was special.”

Franz Bracket and Sandra Reichel
Image: cityfoto.at/Roland Pelzl

The 52-year-old has long since taken the Design Center into her heart, which of course pleases the managing director there, Thomas Ziegler. He welcomes the tennis ladies with open arms: “I am happy and proud that Sandra Reichel has chosen us with an event that will be broadcast in 160 countries.”

Make meters for the Linz Marathon on April 7th

After the gala there is the 22nd Oberbank Linz Donau Marathon, which will take place on April 7th. It is now important to make meters. “We have two goals: 1. the men’s course record, which is 2:06:13 minutes. Secondly, we want to bring significantly more than 15,000 to the starting line,” said Günther Weidlinger, the sporting director and ex-world-class athlete, who still holds seven national records.

If he lost her, it wouldn’t be a problem, “because it’s a sign that some good young ones are coming.” Postscript: “I don’t stick to my records.”

Christian Pflügl, ex-marathon man, once on the Stockerl in Linz and now ORF co-commentator, fondly remembers his appearances on the running course: “I’m proud of it, but everything has its time. Commentating is also very rewarding have fun.”

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