Monday, February 7, 2011

Star Sightings

The World Alpine Skiing Championships start tomorrow. Actually the opening ceremony is tonight, but the first race is tomorrow. This competition is second in prestige to the Olympics. If all goes well, it will look good for the Munich/Garmisch bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. In the downtown walking zone there is already a real party atmosphere. My husband and I walked there and checked it out. We got free Swiss cowbells and samples of Milka chocolate. Milka is a major sponsor of World Cup skiing. In this part of Germany, and in neighboring Austria, skiers are treated like American football, baseball, or basketball players in the States or hockey stars in Canada. Many of the skiers on the German national team are from the Garmisch area. Double Olympic gold medalist Maria Riesch and national team member Felix Neureuther, who are Garmisch-Partenkirchen natives, have their pictures all over town on banners, posters, and store window displays.

This morning I went skiing with my husband and saw a lot of the athletes training. Some of the men were training on one of the easier slopes to test out their skis and wax. We could watch them from the chair lift and also from the run. My local ski area has two expert slopes. The Kandahar is the one that will be used for all of the races except for the slaloms. The other advanced run, The Horn, has been closed to the public and is being used for giant slalom training. Skiers are also training on the Kandahar to get a feel for it in advance of their races and figure out which skis and wax would work best for the unseasonably warm conditions.

We saw Canadians, a Czech, an American, and a team in black speed suits that we didn't recognize testing out their skis and wax on the easy slope. When we came off the gondola that goes up to the ski area (the one closest to my house called the Hausbergbahn), I recognized Austrian star Elizabeth Goergl. When my husband and I skied down to the valley to the other gondola (called the Kreuzekbahn), we saw Slovenian star Tina Maze. She is pretty much the Slovenian women's ski team and, like Goergl, one of the very best in the world. When I rode up in the gondola to go back to the ski area, I sat next to Maze and wished her luck in the championships. There was also a Swiss athlete in the gondola with us, who I think was speed specialist Fabienne Suter.

What surprised me was how petite Maze, Goergl, and the Swiss skier were. I'm used to seeing Maria Riesch, who is very tall. American star Lindsey Vonn is also an Amazon. Downhill specialist Anja Paerson of Sweden is a big woman, as is Finnish technical specialist Tania Poutiainen. Therefore, I've come to expect that most female skiers would be bigger women with huge thighs. I'm very small and Maze, Goergl, and the Swiss skier were not much bigger than me. Even their thighs didn't seem much larger than mine. Perhaps it just seemed that way because they were wearing speed suits and I was in baggy ski pants. When I saw Goergl, she looked almost like a teenager.

I'm looking forward to the races and have my favorites who I will cheer for: Maria Riesch, Viktoria Rebensburg (Germany), Ted Ligety (USA), Ivica Kostelic (Croatia), Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway), Felix Neureuther, and Didier Cuche (Switzerland). I hope that all of the athletes will have a successful World Championships.

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