(Championspk)More than 110 athletes from 21 nations are now at Austria’s Kreischberg resort for the season’s seventh event of the AUDI FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour. And, come qualification time on Frisday, all eyes will be on one skier from the Czech Republic who has dominated the World Cup course in the Styrian winter sport resort so far.
At all three previous Kreischberg races (in 2005, 2006, 2008), 39-year-old veteran Tomas Kraus has came out triumphant, and will be looking to right his season with another strong performance on the slope that has been so good to him in seasons past.
Besides his three Kreischberg wins, Kraus has 12 other World Cup wins under his belt, with a total of 26 podium finishes in his career. In addition, the 2006 Overall World Cup title winner has also taken home the small Crystal Globe for the SX World Cup title four times.
However, Kraus has been struggling thus far in the 2013/14 season after breaking his pelvis in the 2013 world championships in Voss (NOR). It won’t be easy for the two-time world champion to celebrate a four-peat at Kreischberg, as a number of athletes have been surging of late.
Besides current World Cup leader David Duncan (CAN), who has already earned two wins this season, powerhouse Andy Matt (AUT) is on top of his game right now and looking to impress on Austrian soil, saying, “We haven’t had a World Cup race in Austria for two years now. I’m looking forward to compete in front of my home crowd.”
While the Krieschberg event won’t count for Olympic qualification, it is significant for being the test for the first ever combined FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships, which will take place January 2015.
No wonder that local hero Katrin Ofner (AUT) is pumped for the next days: “I more or less learned to ski at Kreischberg. I come back for training runs as often as I can. They have built a start machine here for me, too. It would be nice to podium.”
However, the skier from Kobenz who hopes to better her last World Cup result at her preferred venue has to face strong competition.
In 2008, she finished 9th on home turf. This time around she will be in tough, as several other ladies are having banner years.
Canada’s Marielle Thompson and Switzerland’s Katrin Mueller travel with two victories in their pockets, and will be looking to finish strongly in the last event before Sochi 2014.
Fanny Smith (SUI), last year’s top lady of ski cross, has claimed one win this season, and is looking for another one on the Matthias Ortner, Bruno Sumann and Herwig Findling-built Kreischberg course.
The schedule for the Kreischberg World Cup race has the first course tests on Wednesday (10 AM CET), followed by a full day of training on Thursday (10:45 AM CET), and then qualifiers taking place on Friday from 10:30 AM CET on.
The finals will take place Saturday at 2 PM CET with the ladies’ round of 32. ORF1 will broadcast live.