The nation’s top ski instructor

Once they made Marcel Hirscher the best skier in the world, now Ferdinand Hirscher and Mike Pircher have a new mission: to save Austria’s skiing nation.

Sölden. Ferdinand “Ferdl” Hirscher was a lumberjack, hut keeper, ski instructor and above all the trainer of Marcel Hirscher, the best skier in history. But now the 65-year-old is tackling the entire red-white-red skiing nation.

What may sound exaggerated, is only logical: late, but the Austrian Ski Association has identified the giant slalom as a current “core problem” (ÖSV sports director Toni Giger). But it is not about a weak phase in one of several disciplines of skiing, but a gaping gap in basic alpine training, in giant slalom the athletes train the perfect swing for downhill and slalom. In addition, it is only with a powerful giant slalom team that the much-cited Nations Cup, which went to Switzerland for the first time in 30 years last winter, can be brought back to Austria. In short: the giant slalom swing decides the future of the ski nation.

The urgent need for action is shown by a look at the numbers before today’s giant slalom in Sölden (10 am / 1:15 pm, live, ORF Eins, Eurosport): In the last World Cup winter, the ÖSV men only achieved two podium places in the giant slalom, they landed in the Nations Cup in seventh place behind Slovenia and Croatia. A bitter awakening in the first year after the end of the Marcel Hirscher Festival. The abyss that the superstar has covered for a decade with his 31 victories in this discipline has exceeded the worst imaginations. With his success in Hinterstoder in February 2011, Philipp Schörghofer, who has long since retired, is the last Austrian winner to date in a World Cup giant slalom who is not called Marcel Hirscher.

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