It’s a complicated season for the German ski team. Straßer’s prestigious victory in Kitzbühel should now give the team new inspiration for the rest of the season. He himself wants to follow up on Wednesday.
Olympic medals, World Cup titles, large and small crystal balls: ski racers can win a lot over the course of their careers.
Linus Straßer always wanted one thing: the chamois. Preferably the big, golden, much coveted trophy for a victory in Kitzbühel. Since Sunday, the slalom specialist has been able to put a stop to his long-standing dream. The Ganslern slope has been conquered, the most important slalom race of the Ski World Cup has been won and “the thing is finally in the stable,” as men’s national coach Christian Schwaiger put it.
Straßer’s Kitzbühel coup caused a collective sigh of relief in the German Ski Association – the DSV had not yet had a victory or a podium place among the men in what had been a very poor winter. Only slalom rider Lena Dürr reached the podium four times. Strasser had now made it to the top, and his coup should bring new momentum for the rest of the season.
He is simply “skiing really well at the moment,” said Straßer after the fourth World Cup victory of his career. This gives hope for the 31-year-old’s next gala for the night slalom in Schladming this Wednesday (5.45 p.m./BR and Eurosport). After all, he already won the floodlight spectacle on the Planai two years ago.
A circle closes
Especially since Straßer is now free of the curse of not being able to perform at his “home race”. Where it all began for him as a child, where he raced down the Ganslern as a young member of the Kitzbüheler Ski Club, that’s exactly where the victory at the weekend closed a circle for him, said the Tyrolean by choice.
In terms of atmosphere and emotions, there was nothing greater for him than this triumph, explained Straßer, who lives just a few kilometers away in Kirchberg. Accordingly, he can now tackle the seven remaining slaloms of the winter. The Munich native has moved up to second place in the overall ranking of his flagship discipline. Whether he catches up with the leading Austrian Manuel Feller hardly matters. Straßer is already “a really, really big guy,” as Christian Neureuther said.
“This victory is extremely important for German ski racing,” explained the 74-year-old, who, like his son Felix, once won in Kitzbühel. “It’s good when an athlete comes into focus like that.”
Especially since downhill ace Thomas Dreßen, an exceptional German athlete, had resigned just one day earlier. Yet again. Due to the resignations of Felix Neureuther, Maria Höfl-Riesch and Viktoria Rebensburg, the DSV had already lost big names and a lot of charisma in recent years. Dreßen could have been someone who could have at least closed the gap to some extent. But many injuries prevented it.
Speed men experience winters to forget
After a long effort, Lena Dürr has worked her way into the women’s slalom world elite, but is racing in the shadow of US superstar Mikaela Shiffrin. Parallel world champion Alexander Schmid is not yet in top shape after tearing his cruciate ligament. And Dreßen’s ex-colleagues, the German speed men, have so far experienced a winter to forget.
Now Straßer is emerging as a beacon of hope. He has never lacked talent, but he has often lacked consistency in the past. But: He is one of the world’s best. Of the last four German World Cup successes since the beginning of 2021, three are his credit. And it is also good for very special moments. Like in 2022 when we won in Schladming, like on Sunday in Kitzbühel. It’s dream trips like this that can help entire teams get out of a slump in form or mood.
Straßer’s triumph was an “extremely healing action,” said DSV Alpine boss Wolfgang Maier. “Even if we still have one or two topics ahead of us.” The official has been in the business long enough not to be blinded by moments like those on Sunday in Kitzbühel. “But that gives motivation to everyone who works here.”
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