On 27th October, the first season after the end of Marcel Hirscher’s great career will start in Sölden. SKI AUSTRIA interviewed Andreas Puelacher, sporting director of the Austrian (ÖSV) Men’s Team, to discuss the retirement of the eight-time overall World Cup winner, potential crystal globes for the coming season and a very intense racing calendar. Read below the English version of his original interview!
After Marcel Hirscher’s retirement, Austria is no longer the main contender for the overall World Cup. What’s your take on this?
We start the season with new omens. We are certainly not the favourites. As the main contender for the big crystal globe, I see Alexis Pinturault. Henrik Kristoffersen certainly has a very good chance and maybe Marco Odermatt from Switzerland could also be a candidate. We will try to fight for the overall World Cup as long as possible, let’s see what happens.
Could there be any surprises?
I think so. Now the two favourites Pinturault and Kristoffersen are under pressure. They both need to deliver and be very consistent throughout the season. If that is not the case, it would be the chance for an “outsider”.
How much does Marcel’s retirement hurt?
Losing the best athlete always hurts a lot. But we have a very strong team, so I'm looking forward to the start of the season.
Who could, in your view, follow Marcel's footsteps?
I do not want to mention any names here. We have good people, you'll see who has the chance to fight for a globe.
It is a "transitional season" without World Cup or Olympic Games. What goals have you set yourself?
The goals are always the same ones. I want to have a strong and united team that can compete for victories, podiums and even globes in every discipline.
Where do you see the biggest chance to go for the crystal globe?
I think we have chances in every discipline. The technical team can count on very good athletes who will for sure have their opportunities. The big wish for all of us is to bring home a globe in the speed disciplines. The team of Sepp Brunner is very good, and I dare to say that we are among the favourites.
In February, China will host the test events for the Winter Olympics. What are athletes expecting there?
We have information about the snow conditions on site, which are very special. We will travel to China earlier with the Speed Team so that they can better adapt to the snow and local conditions.
We have again a very intense season ahead of us. Do you believe there are too many races in the FIS calendar?
Yes. This is incomprehensible. It’s up to FIS to determine these things, but the burden on the athletes is huge. Through this calendar there are no more “allrounders”. Athletes can no longer be competitive in three or four disciplines. They lack training, the travel tensions are enormous and there is no time for recovery and material coordination, which is crucial nowadays.
In less than two weeks, the season traditionally starts at the Rettenbach glacier above Sölden. What do you expect from the first giant slalom?
We don’t start in a great position, as we have some athletes with higher starting numbers who have to fight their way to the top. But I am convinced that in giant slalom we will have again a compact and powerful team already half way through the season.
After the retirement of Hirscher, Manuel Feller is the new number one in the giant slalom team. Are the greatest hopes on him?
Of course, Manuel is certainly one of the athletes that will be battling for the podium in Sölden.
To read the original interview by SKI AUSTRIA, click here.