This week the final inspection for the Nordic World Ski Championships took place in Oberstdorf, in line with the current situation as a video call. Three months before the start of the winter sports highlight in Germany, the organizers are still optimistically planning the title fights from February 24 to March 7, 2021 with spectators, for example 2,500 for ski jumping – in an arena that is otherwise ten times as many at the start of the Four Hills Tournament.
The World Cup opener for the flying men in Wisla, Poland, was always a real celebration with tens of thousands of fans. Nobody is allowed to watch this weekend – and yet the athletes don’t let the fun spoil. »We are glad that there are international competitions at all again! We are lucky that we are a television sport. We just have to inspire the fans in front of the television. There will still be emotional outbursts, «promises Markus Eisenbichler.
The three-time world champion from 2019 is back in top form after a difficult winter for him. At the German championships at the end of October he had won his first national individual title. Eisenbichler, however, does not know what this success is worth, because the usual comparison with the world leaders at the Grand Prix in summer was due to corona. “I have no idea how good Stefan Kraft or Ryoyu Kobayashi are. I saw them for the last time after the World Cup last winter, when they fled on the plane in Trondheim, «reports Karl Geiger, the German pilot last winter.
Because of the extraordinary situation, not only national coach Stefan Horngacher believes that this winter could be “more exciting and surprising than seldom before”. The start in Wisla therefore promises cool competitions, and that has not only something to do with the sporting competition. On the Adam-Malysz-Schanze you land on crushed ice. In other words, the ice that is usually used for mixed drinks. At this early point in time before winter, the substance is the only chance for the Polish organizers to secure the World Cup even when the temperatures are clearly above zero.
»In the last few years the hill was not optimally prepared because crushed ice cannot be worked on well. I don’t expect the best landing zone, ”fears the German head coach Horngacher. That should be a challenge especially for Olympic champion Andreas Wellinger, who one year and eight months after his last World Cup appearance is celebrating his comeback after a cruciate ligament tear: “It was a long and difficult phase to fight myself back after the knee injury. I have to get back into the competitions first, collect points, and I can’t expect podium places right away. Hopefully we will contest the winter as a strong German team, whatever it will be. “
How strong the German team could be is shown by the fact that Wellinger has secured the seventh and last ticket for the World Cup kick-off alongside Eisenbichler, Geiger, Severin Freund, Constantin Schmid, Martin Hamann and Pius Paschke. A star like Richard Freitag or David Siegel, who is returning after a cruciate ligament injury, have to watch. The team can prove itself in the team competition on Saturday before the individual competition starts on Sunday.
Of course, as in other professional sports, a strict hygiene concept also applies to ski jumpers. Corona tests took place at home before leaving for the competitions and then again on site in Wisla. After the kick-off in Poland, the International Ski Federation will even use a charter plane to take athletes from Munich directly to Ruka in Finland on November 25th. From Finland the plane then goes on to the next World Cup in Nizhny Tagil, Russia, and from there directly to the first highlight of the season, the ski flying world championships in Planica, Slovenia.
The television contracts that secure the long winter sports weekends on ZDF and ARD ensure, at least for now, the financial survival of associations and athletes. Failure insurance also covers part of the losses caused by missing spectators in championships and highlights such as the Four Hills Tournament. It is already certain, for example, that the New Year’s ski jumping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen will take place entirely without fans.