With his acclaimed ski jumping success from Schattenberg, Andreas Wellinger brought back memories of almost forgotten times - and of the teenage idols of the time, Sven Hannawald and Martin Schmitt.
Accompanied by screaming fans, the overwhelmed Olympic champion made his way through the completely full center of Oberstdorf, which became a big party mile. There were scenes like those at the turn of the millennium, when there was a huge ski jumping hype in Germany.
Early the next morning, the thousands of spectators had disappeared after a long night. However, the forecourt of the Oberstdorf House still resembled the heavily marked grounds of a music festival with a lot of rubbish and plenty of empty beer bottles. Wellinger was a celebrated star after the emotional and successful start in front of 25,500 spectators in the Allgäu. After his victory ahead of Ryoyu Kobayashi (Japan) and Stefan Kraft (Austria), he has to come to terms with a new role as the hunted.
"I would say that's a nice starting position. For me, the challenge is that I keep ski jumping like this. If I do that, I can stay in the role of the hunted," said the 28-year-old, the first German touring skier. Overall winner since Hannawald 2002. Wellinger has had a long ordeal riddled with setbacks. A timeline with Olympic gold in South Korea as the starting point.
At the age of 22, Wellinger crowned his career early. The Bavarian became Olympic champion in the individual normal hill on an icy ski jumping night in Pyeongchang. This was followed by two silver medals in the team and in the large hill individual. Four years earlier, at the age of 18, Wellinger was part of the Olympic gold quartet in Sochi.
Just a year after the Olympics, Wellinger will not play a role at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld. On the large hill in Innsbruck, his teammates Karl Geiger, Stephan Leyhe, Markus Eisenbichler and Richard Freitag confidently become world champions. Wellinger is a substitute and spectator at Bergisel.
The ski jumper tore his cruciate ligament while training in Hinzenbach. This makes it clear: He will be canceled for next winter. But the message is much worse than the loss for a single season. In this sensitive sport, such a serious knee injury in the vast majority of cases represents a massive and lasting career brake.
Almost four years after winning the Olympics in Pyeongchang, Wellinger tested positive for Corona shortly before the Winter Games in Beijing. He is not traveling to China. Even before his positive test, he had nothing to do with the world's best that winter.
Wellinger impressively returns to the top of the world with a World Cup victory in Lake Placid. The success comes pretty much out of nowhere, after all, the Olympic champion had not been at the top of a podium in the World Cup individual since December 2017. A week later he also won the World Cup dress rehearsal in Rasnov, Romania, which many top athletes had forgone due to stress reasons.
With the opening victory at the Four Hills Tournament in Oberstdorf, Wellinger celebrated one of the greatest successes in his sporting career. "It's very, very high up. It's difficult to compare with an Olympic victory, but it will be in a similar category," said the Ruhpoldinger.
He has “never” experienced such an atmosphere as during the German anthem on Schattenberg. But Wellinger doesn't have a lot of time to process it. With the competitions on January 1st in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, on January 3rd in Innsbruck and on January 6th in Bischofshofen, Wellinger has the chance to finally crown his career.