Kitzbühel, Maribor. The last World Cup weekend before the Ski World Championships in Schladming – an ideal performance check for the Atomic stars: Marcel Hirscher took victory in Kitzbühel (in the 100th World Cup race of his career), continuing his magical series of slalom wins. Benni Raich showed a return to his old form with a heroic catch-up bid (from 25th to 5th place). Erik Guay and Max Franz demonstrated their speed abilities with top results on the Streif. Kathrin Zettel notched up her seventh podium place of the season after finishing third in Maribor. The Redster team is ready for Schladming.
Marcel Hirscher is opening up a new dimension in skiing: his victory in Kitzbühel – his 17th in 100 World Cup races – was achieved on the same model from the Atomic Icon series (which he designed himself) on which he skied to victory in Madonna, Zagreb and Adelboden, and onto the winners' podium in all the other slalom races. "I didn't put them on until the second run this time," Marcel reveals. His set-up should allow him to make "a controlled attack close to the limit". The ideal situation, as Benni Raich also discovered once again in Kitzbühel: from 25th to 5th place – "the feeling of being able to go all out on the attack again is very liberating," explains a delighted Benni, ahead of his eighth Ski World Championships.
WORLD CHAMPION ERIK PERFORMING STRONGLY
11th, 16th, 19th, drop out: this was Erik Guay's performance curve in the four speed events before the Ski World Championships in Garmisch 2011, where he became Downhill World Champion (the fifth in a row on Atomic). As the defending champion, his performance now looks very different: consistently among the top 5 in January, second in the Downhill event in Kitzbühel, just 13 hundredths of a second behind the fastest time. "Everything is timed perfectly. I'm taking a break now, recovering, and I know what I need to do in Schladming." Atomic youngster Max Franz's break was longer than he would have liked. However, his 5th place in the Hahnenkamm downhill sends a clear signal: "I'm almost back to the level I had reached before my injury." All the ski experts agree, at this level anything is possible for Max too at the World Championships.
ALL SLALOM LADIES AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS?
The Atomic slalom ladies are also right on track. After three victories in a row by Mikaela Shiffrin (8th in Maribor), Kathrin Zettel was third this time, with Michaela Kirchgasser in fifth position. And - miracles happen - some happy news from Marlies Schild: her treatment is going so well that there is even a chance that the World Champion could be lining up in Schladming, 57 days after tearing her collateral ligament.