9 months. It took this long until Atomic all star Michael Walchhofer (36) returned to the world cup after his retirement. In Bormio, where the 19-time world cup winner won three times. He is back – not as racer, but as advisor and mentor for Austria’s young downhill racers. Atomic young guns Joachim Puchner (24), Max Franz (22), Manuel Kramer (22) and Björn Sieber (22) are excited.
He came, saw, and won. In Bormio on Pista Stelvia, one of the toughest slopes of the world, the three-time World Cup downhill winner is on the young ATOMIC athletes’ side. The World Cup beginners Franz, Kramer and Sieber profit from the experience of last year’s winner on one of the steepest slopes (3,230 m length; 987 m difference in altitude; up to 140km/h top speed).
“When it comes to talking about fears or personal issues, it is easier to talk to me than to a trainer. I want to take away the young racers’ fear, the respect for the slope may remain“, Walchhofer, who achieved the podium 7 times in Bormio, claimed. The reactions of the ATOMIC Young Guns? “Michi can help in many ways. What goggles do I use under changing lighting conditions, which line is the fastest, how to I use my energy to make it three days on such an adrenaline course? Michael knows answers to all of these questions, because he used to race himself and is still close to all these issues“, Manuel Kramer said, also on behalf of his colleagues.
A GONDOLA RIDE WITH MICHAEL WALCHHOFER
Michael Walchhofer and Joachim Puchner, both athletes come from the province of Salzburg, get along very well. Before the second training started, they shared a gondola to get up to the Stelvio. And in their minds, they raced down slope together. “At the Fontana lunga you really have to pay attention ...“, the one said. “The gate approaching the San Pietro jump is set let like this ...“, the other mentioned. Not a trainer and an athlete were talking, but two racers were chatting with each other.
Walchhofer will be back, “Kitzbühel, Chamonix, Sochi, wherever more young racers will participate. I’ve been a certified trainer since 1998, but this is a job I’m currently not aspiring. But I don’t want to be around as a VIP guest only. I want to share my experience with the guys without imposing myself on them.“ And even old hands like ATOMIC comeback racer Mario Scheiber (28) for example are pleased, “It’s great that Walchi is around. He won here three times, he knows all the perils and can explain them better than any trainer.“