One of the speediest Austrians on the circuit these days, 29-year-old Klaus Kroell is poised in second place in the World Cup downhill standings and though he's been racing for a while, chose a remarkable place for his first ever Cup victory last season. He won the 2009 super G and took third in downhill on the ominous slope at Kitzbuhel, maybe not too surprising for a guy who dabbles in Motocross when he's not reaching top speeds on his skis.
Growing up in the Styrian region of Austria, Kroell began to land on the podium at national junior races by the age of 15, broke his leg a year later, then took second place the following year in the one race he started, the Austrian Youth Championships downhill. By the age of 17, he was winning Citizen races and in 1999, took second in a Europa Cup downhill and became the junior world downhill champion. In 2001, he was named to Austria's mighty A-team and proceeded to earn a handful of top-10s on the World Cup in downhill and super G. The Salomon skier made his first World Cup podium in the Val d'Isere downhill in 2002-03 and barely missed the podium with a fourth place in the Bormio downhill. Kroell continued to be a regular presence in the top 10 for downhill through 2007 - including another podium in Garmisch in 2006 - and by the end of the 2008 season, was eighth in the world downhill standings.
Last year is when glory really began to shine on the Austrian's career, however. He started off the season in the top five at the Lake Louise and Beaver Creek downhill races, landed a second place in Bormio, then showed the intimidating pistesat Kitzbuehel that he was not only unafraid, but master of the course, winning the super G and taking third in the downhill. The momentum continued into Kvitfjell, Norway, at the end of the season, when Kroell won another downhill and finished the season second in the DH standings, eighth in SG and 12th overall.
In addition to cruising around on dirt bikes, Kroell has been known to play the occasional game of paintball.