First podium for Stephan Keppler
Nineteen years after Markus Wasmeier, who won a Super-G in March 1991 at Lake Louise, Canada, another German skier finally reached a podium in that specialty on the men’s tour on Saturday – 27-year-old Stephan Keppler was a happy and surprised 2nd in the first competition of the Italian weekend.
Starting in 7th position, the champion from Ebingen, in Bavaria, achieved a flawless run to clock a new best time after his race. He remained for half an hour in the leader’s box, until the arrival of the final winner, Austria’s Michael Walchhofer.
Keppler, who suffered several serious injuries in his career including torn cruciate ligaments at his knee a few years ago, felt strong pains at his back in the morning of the race. With the help of his team masseur, he was able to find back his freedom of movements.
A few hours later, he was finally been paid back for all his efforts and his strong commitment during those past difficult hours and seasons. The Bavarian had only scored three top-10 results on the World Cup tour in past winters including a 8th place here back in December 2006.
Last winter, he could not do better than 13th in downhill at Bormio and 14th in Super-G at Kitzbühel and had to wait the last moment to be assured to compete at the 2010 Olympics at Vancouver. He ended a far 24th in both speed events there.
This season start has been pretty encouraging with points in all speed events he raced in Canada and Colorado including a 20th position in Beaver Creeks’s Super-G. It helped him to score a total of 98 points in three weeks –nearly as much as four years ago when he reached a total of 106 points at the end of the 2007 winter!
“It’s for sure a wonderful result for me, I didn’t expect it at all this morning,” he said at the post-race press conference. “For once I didn’t make any stupid mistake as usual and the course was in perfect shape for me, much better than for the late starters,” he added with a grin.
Interestingly enough, he only got that early start-number at the bib draw because USA’s Ted Ligety decided to pull out of the race to focus on Sunday’s prestigious giant slalom at Alta Badia.
“I guess I’ll now have to buy him a pack of nice beer, I own him a lot,” Keppler also commented. “The race conditions were excellent for me and I felt pretty relaxed on my way down. It has been quite an exciting feeling to stand at the leader’s board and see all the favorites finishing behind me – until Walchhofer’s arrival. He had a great run despite the snowfall, he fully deserves that victory.”
After the race, Keppler also thanked his physiotherapeute who treated him so well in the morning allowing him to walk to the course. “I felt really bad when I woke up, but he took great care of me,” Stephan explained.
“This performance qualifies me for the upcoming World Championships at Garmisch-Partenkirchen which are for sure the highlight for our team this season. It’s a big boost for my moral and I’m looking forward for another strong run on Saturday but I don’t expect anything better than a top-20. This time I’ll wear a high bib, in the 60s, and the course will be tough and bumpy. Yet I’m not the only German who can excel in the downhill. “
In fact, former junior World Champion Andreas Sander clocked a strong 3rd best time in one of the two training runs. “I’m convince that the tiny German team will fight hard now after Keppler’s demonstration, he proved what Can be done here,” said former downhill winner Max Rauffer, who tamed the Saslong course back in 2004.
Contributed by PkL