No medals for 'depressed' Austria
Skiing's 'Power Team' have two men's races left to prevent first WC medal drought.
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2009 13:47 GMT

Olympic champ Raich has failed to deliver more gold [GALLO/GETTY]
Ski-mad Austria have just two races left to escape the unthinkable of leaving the world championships without a medal from the men's events for the first time.

Nicknamed the "Power Team", Austria's men have looked flat so far and have failed to win a medal from the first three events in Val d'Isere, France.

For the first time since the 1989 world championships in Vail, Colorado, there was no Austrian on the podium after the men's speed races.

Fifth place by Benjamin Raich in the super-G and sixth place by Hermann Maier in the downhill have been their best results.

Swiss breeze

To make matters worse, arch-rivals Switzerland, eager to replace Austria as the top Alpine nation, did fine with gold and silver by Didier Cuche in the super-G and downhill respectively.

"Of course it hurts to see us without a medal after three events," said head coach Hans Pum on Tuesday.

"Things are simply not going our way and we're all depressed."

In a country so used to success, the staff, and especially men's coach Toni Giger, are now under fire from the media but Pum warned against taking immediate sanctions.

"We need to analyse what happened calmly and precisely," he said.

"I understand that the pressure on all those involved is getting higher but I can assure that we did everything right with our preparations."

Raich was under extreme pressure to restore Austria's battered pride in Monday's super-combined but he skied out in the downhill section and Austria again missed out on a medal.

The Austrians' fiasco was not totally surprising after they struggled in speed events on the World Cup circuit this season, unlike in technical events.

Getting old

The main reason is their best speed specialists, Maier and Michael Walchhofer, 36 and 33 respectively, are both past their prime while the youngsters in the squad still need time to reach the top level.

Maier is now 36 [GALLO/GETTY]
Austria, where skiing is the number one sport and draws huge crowds, television audiences and sponsorships deals, can take consolation from the fact that their women have been doing quite well here with three medals secured, including a gold by Kathrin Zettel in the super-combined.

The giant slalom and slalom events, in which Raich is the Olympic champion, now offer Austria's men their last hope of a medal.

"What we need to do is immediately switch our minds to the giant slalom and slalom, for which we have very strong guys," Raich said.

"There is pressure, that's normal, but at the Olympics, I had not won a medal in the combined either and I then won two golds so everything remains possible."

The last event in particular, the men's slalom on February 15, is likely to ease Austria's suffering.

They will start it with the Olympic champion in Raich, the world champion in Mario Matt and two World Cup winners this season in Manfred Pranger and Reinfried Herbst within their ranks.

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