“I can proudly say that I have the virus almost under control,” says ski racer Alexander Schmid before the start of the alpine skiing winter in Sölden. He had been able to train normally all summer, he felt physically good and productive: “It’s much easier than last year.” He said that he often ran out of strength, especially in the second round of a World Cup giant slalom a vague weakness was noticeable made.
The virus that Schmid suffered from is not called Covid-19, but Epstein-Barr, named after the two discoverers who first described it in the 1960s. It belongs to the herpes virus group and can trigger glandular fever. “There are so many viruses,” Schmid says laconically about his health problems. These days it is occasionally forgotten that there are other diseases besides Corona. He accepts the comprehensive measures in Sölden without worrying too much: “I am not afraid that I will get infected. My immune system should be great. “
In general, the 26-year-old Schmid “doesn’t want to think about it anymore”, but “wants to concentrate fully on skiing”. In the giant slalom, the Oberstdorfer belongs to the extended top class, which was manifested last winter when he finished in the points in all seven World Cup races. However, his performances were not too conspicuous, the outlier upwards was missing: 13th place in Garmisch was the best result of the season. Following the principle of taking small steps, Schmid is now issuing “top ten places” as a seasonal target. After all, he proved that he is capable of faster turns in the parallel race in Chamonix when he finished third and thus made it onto the podium for the first time.
Rather mediocre consistency is not one of Stefan Luitz’s core problems. The 28-year-old has already achieved a good dozen top five placements in his career, including a World Cup victory. His problem is more the susceptibility to sometimes strange failures that run through his promising career. In a kind of overcorrection, he tried to be more consistent last winter. As a consequence, except for his second place in the parallel giant slalom in Alta Badia, it didn’t really work.
After the analysis of the previous season, which he found “brutally tough”, Luitz has now drawn a self-confident conclusion: He wants to “let Stefan drive” again, trust himself and his talent and also “be a bit of a bastard”. In an unsuccessful attempt to avoid mistakes, he braked himself and made half-hearted turns instead of looking for the direct line. “Drive for safety”, is how he realized: “It’s not me.” It took a while “until I found fun racing again”. For his head it is important “that I am the boss again”.
Of course, he cannot promise whether he will be able to find the cheekier line in addition to having fun on Sunday (10:00 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on ZDF and Eurosport) in Sölden. The already selective glacier slope changes from year to year. This time it appears even steeper in the difficult passages, but even flatter at the bottom. The difference in altitude is 370 meters, the maximum incline 65 percent, the lowest incline only 15. Errors in the wrong place cannot be rectified.
“A really nice slope, but it’s tough,” says Luitz, who has been trying to conquer the Rettenbachferner regularly since 2011, but has never been in the top 15. His former ancestor Felix Neureuther nevertheless believes that he could show a splendid drive: “He’s going on full attack this year. I saw him in training and I think he can make it to the podium, ”said the 36-year-old, who is now following the Ski World Cup as an ARD expert, in an interview with Sportschau.
In addition to attack, Stefan Luitz and Alexander Schmid also want to try to face new challenges this winter. Luitz is still testing whether he is more drawn to slalom or super-G. Schmid is certain that in addition to giant slalom and parallel giant slalom, he also wants to tackle slalom races. “Variety is always good,” he says about his project: “If you drive the same discipline every time, the fire is lost a bit.” And now that he has the blocking Epstein-Barr virus under control, he wants his Do not let the inner flame go out under any circumstances.
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