Here we go. The Rettenbachferner in Sölden opens its doors today – according to the motto “Ladies first”. At 10 a.m. (ORF 1), the 2020/21 Ski World Cup season will begin with the women’s giant slalom. Even positive corona cases in two teams do not change that. “The people concerned had not yet accepted accreditation and were therefore not yet in their bladder”, explained FIS Race Director Markus Waldner.
It is a special weekend under extraordinary conditions – especially for a duo that is slowly trying to get back to the top of the world after serious injuries: Bernadette Schild and Stephanie Brunner. The latter is so tired that it has almost developed a certain whistle-nothing mentality.
“If it tears, it tears,” says the 26-year-old Tyrolean about her cruciate ligament in her left knee that was “destroyed” for the third time in August 2019. At least this approach shouldn’t slow the dashing athlete, who is now into Atomic, in her head.
It was Austria’s number 1
The Zillertal woman does not want to philosophize about her long period of suffering – Brunner contested her last World Cup race to date on January 8, 2019 (19th place in Flachau). That is snow from yesterday. “We don’t need to talk about that anymore,” says Brunner, who has been with a piece of pelvic bone in her injured knee since an operation in August 2019.
Expectations are limited for someone who was Austria’s number one in giant slalom and made it into the top five ten times in this discipline between 2016 and 2018. “I have to get back into the rhythm first,” explained Brunner. But if she catapults herself out of the starting house, she will do it with 100 percent. “Always go to your limit” is Brunner’s motto. “Nobody can give me the assurance that my knee will hold up. But I’ll just try again – and then we’ll see.”
Bernadette Schild, the younger sister of ex-slalom queen Marlies Raich, doesn’t have the best memories of Sölden. Here, almost a year ago, when the glacier opened, she tore the cruciate ligament in her right knee. Now things should go up for the 30-year-old again. “Sometimes I even forget that I was injured,” said the Salzburg woman. “The knee is spotless.” The favorites are still others. For example Federica Brignone (Ita), who won the 2019/20 overall and giant slalom World Cup.
The men get their skis going on Sunday (10 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., ORF 1). Only seven ÖSV athletes are at the start – including speed star Vincent Kriechmayr and Stefan Brennsteiner, who is hot for his racing comeback after suffering a meniscus and cartilage injury at the beginning of February.
In the past giant slalom season, which was very modest from a red-white-red point of view, the 29-year-old from Zell am See was one of the reliable with ranks 13, 11 and 10. But more is needed to be a winner.
Sölden defending champions Alexis Pinturault (Fra) and Henrik Kristoffersen (Nor), the winner of the discipline ranking, fall into this category. The two are by far the most popular among bookmakers.
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