It will certainly no longer be as dreary and sterile as it was at the Corona World Cup in Oberstdorf two years ago in winter sports-crazy Slovenia. Tens of thousands of fans are expected in the picturesque valley of Planica at the ski jumps and cross-country ski runs, with partly spring-like temperatures and plenty of sunshine.
After glorious World Championships full of successes and medals in ski jumping and Nordic combined, the big question for the German team is: Are the golden years over for the time being? Or can the title fights from Falun 2015 (five times gold), Lahti 2017 and Seefeld 2019 (six titles each) be repeated?
In the recent past, it was mainly the men around the ski jumping room Karl Geiger and Markus Eisenbichler and combined athlete Eric Frenzel who contributed a large part of the medals, but this picture could change in Slovenia. Because: The most promising candidates for gold, silver and bronze are jumper Katharina Althaus and the discovery of combined exercise Nathalie Armbruster, who at the age of 17 is aiming for the highest goals at the big event. "I would never have thought that the season could go like this. I would not have expected that in any way," said Armbruster about her season with eight podium finishes.
Wellinger able to win again in time
Two years ago in Oberstdorf, the ski jumpers saved the German team from a world championship without a title. The men's quartet and the mixed were world champions, each led by Geiger and Eisenbichler. This year, the recovered Olympic champion Andreas Wellinger is more likely to draw attention. Wellinger ended a more than five-year stalemate when he won the individual competitions in Lake Placid and Rasnov. "I have the feeling that he has taken the lead in the team. He is currently our most promising athlete," said national coach Stefan Horngacher.
With two individuals, the team and the mixed, Wellinger is a contender for four medals, as team colleague Geiger brought in brilliantly in his Allgäu home in spring 2021. Since his Olympic victory in Pyeongchang, Wellinger has missed out on major event after major event. Sometimes his form wasn't right, sometimes he was injured, sometimes he got sick at the wrong time.
"The last few years have been unfortunate, you can say that. The starting situation is much better this time," said Wellinger of the German Press Agency before the title fights in Planica, which started on March 5 with the men's 50-kilometer cross-country skiing be terminated. Although he has matured as a person, not much has changed in the team. "But I would say that in my role I am the same jumping jack that I have always been."
In principle, the biggest opponents in every sport come from Norway. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (cross-country skiing), long-term winner Gyda Westvold Hansen, Jarl Magnus Riiber (both combination) and ski jumper Halvor Egner Granerud could become the stars of the 2023 World Championships with multiple chances of gold. Medals will often be the benchmark for the German team. Combined national coach Hermann Weinbuch is hoping for three medals in four competitions before what will probably be his last World Cup. Even in ski jumping - as at the past world championships - something should be possible despite the weak course of the season with a miserable Four Hills Tournament.
The performance of the German cross-country skiing team is eagerly awaited. At the Olympics in Beijing, there was a sensational team sprint gold and relay silver for the women around Katharina Hennig and Victoria Carl. Team boss Peter Schlickenrieder doesn't expect this coup to happen again in Planica. "Something like this happens once or maybe twice in a lifetime, then the luck in this world is used up," said Schlickenrieder. Even with a medal it would be "a very good World Cup" for him. As always, the focus is on the relays, added the 2002 Olympic silver medalist.