"Sölden is always a very special race after the long period of preparation. Due to the high altitude and snow situation there are very special conditions. Well-established and experienced athletes therefore have a certain advantage in Sölden. I am looking forward to fair and exciting races. As in every other race, we want to be in the running for victory and podium finishes right from the start of the season," emphasises HEAD Racing Director Rainer Salzgeber.
When the Ski World Cup kicks off with the traditional men's and women's Giant Slalom races in Sölden on October 22 and 23, the HEAD team will be entering the competition as the clear number one from last season. Led by Sara Hector and Alexis Pinturault, the HEAD Worldcup Rebels want to show right from the start that they are heading for victory in 2022/23.
|The world`s best ski team ready to defend title
Sara Hector: "I feel good and I'm ready"
Olympic champion Sara Hector is one of the absolute top favourites in Sölden following on from her outstanding Giant Slalom results last season. "I have prepared well and feel good and ready. I enjoy skiing and have made some more progress," reports the Swedish athlete. "We have a very large, competitive field of starters in Sölden, so you can never say exactly what to expect. But I'm going to epare as best I can, and I'm really excited that the racing season is finally underway again."
Lara Gut-Behrami knows what it feels like to win in Sölden. The Swiss athlete stood on top of the podium in the opening races in 2013 and 2016 and, as an Olympic Bronze medallist, wants to show that she is once again a force to be reckoned with in this discipline this season. "Sölden is one of my favourite races. I really enjoy skiing there and hope that I can perform well. In the weeks leading up to Sölden I have been training on the Swiss glaciers in Zermatt and Diavolezza. The preparation over the summer with my coach in Switzerland and in Granada, as well as the training camp in Chile, were also very good."
Ragnhild Mowinckel was also in the spotlight last season with very consistent results in the Giant Slalom. "She has fought her way back from injury and has made excellent progress. Ragnhild can be one of the leaders in Sölden," says Rainer Salzgeber about the Norwegian athlete, who won Silver in the Giant Slalom at the 2018 Olympics. Franziska Gritsch will cross the start line in Sölden as the local hero: "Sölden is always a very special race for me. Starting the new season with a home race together with family, friends and many acquaintances in the crowd - of course you want to show what you can do," explains the Tyrolean.
Alexis Pinturault: "I want to fight my way back onto the podium"
Alexis Pinturault wants to get back into the action this season. Winning the Giant Slalom Crystal Globe in 2020/21 and 18 World Cup victories, the Giant Slalom is the French athlete's favourite discipline, having also triumphed in Sölden in 2016 and 2019. "Last season was difficult for me. Now I want to fight my way back onto the podium and win races. If I can keep pace with the best athletes in Sölden, that would be a really good start for me," said Alexis Pinturault, whose season highlight is the World Cup in his home country in February. "The World Cup in Courchevel is of course a very big goal for me this season. But what's important now is that I'm getting closer to the podium step by step." Rainer Salzgeber adds: "Alexis now has a new service man, a lot has been changed. Preparations have gone very well. Leading in to the start of the season in Sölden we only need to fine-tune a few things on the equipment."
|Alexis Pinturault - GEPA pictures
Alexander Schmid's performance curve showed a strong upward trend last season. The German athlete finished third in Alta Badia to bag his first Giant Slalom podium. "This year was the first time I was really fit physically and health-wise over the summer, so I was able to complete almost all the training sessions. Like every year, the race opening in Sölden is relatively early and you don't feel 100 percent ready. But it's a cool feeling when you finally get going again. I feel fit and I'm really motivated. My goal is to translate my training effort into race results and be on the start line in every technical discipline race."
Atle Lie McGrath made the final breakthrough to the top of the world last season with two Slalom victories. In December 2020, the Norwegian athlete already stood on a Giant Slalom podium having finished in second place in Alta Badia. "I feel very good, fit and ready for this season. The end of last season was great. I hope I can carry that momentum into the new season. In Sölden I want to make sure I make it into the second run, that's my first goal this year. But I feel I'm skiing well, so maybe I can surprise myself."
HEAD newcomer Patrick Feurstein could also conjure up a surprise in Sölden. "Things have gone very well in training. Patrick made good progress in the Giant Slalom last season. This discipline will also be the main focus for him," says Rainer Salzgeber.
Justin Murisier, another strong Giant Slalom contender from the HEAD team, had to undergo back surgery in October. When the Swiss athlete will be able to return to the World Cup again will be decided at short notice.
"We want to race for the Crystal Globe in every discipline"
"Our aspirations certainly won't get any smaller," said Rainer Salzgeber at the end of the extraordinarily successful 2021/22 season. In the FIS Brand Ranking, HEAD was again clearly in the lead at the end of the last skiing year with 8,275 points. At the Olympic Games in Beijing, the highlight of the season, six out of ten Gold medals in the individual events went to the HEAD team. In the World Cup, the HEAD Worldcup Rebels raced to 64 podium finishes - 17 times they stood on top of the podium. With newcomers Patrick Feurstein, Matthieu Bailet, and Jessica Hilzinger, the HEAD Worldcup Rebels enter the 2022/23 season stronger than ever. Kjetil Jansrud leaves last season's strongest alpine ski team to conclude his successful career after almost two decades.
"Our goal is to compete for the Crystal Globe in all disciplines. We have always been strong in the speed disciplines in recent years. And we are in the best possible position again this season. In the Slalom too, it was particularly pleasing that we were able to celebrate great results last year. We want to build on that and take the next step," says Rainer Salzgeber.
HEAD World Cup Rebels victories in the 2021/22 season
- Sara Hector (SWE): Olympic Champion in the Giant Slalom, Giant Slalom Courchevel, Giant Slalom Kranjska Gora, Giant Slalom Kronplatz
- Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI): Olympic Champion in the Super-G, Super-G St. Moritz, Downhill Altenmarkt-Zauchensee
- Beat Feuz (SUI): Olympic Champion in the Downhill, Downhill Kitzbühel
- Corinne Suter (SUI): Olympic Champion in the Downhill, Downhill Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Matthias Mayer (AUT): Olympic Champion in the Super-G, Downhill Lake Louise
- Johannes Strolz (AUT): Olympic Champion in the Combined event, Slalom Adelboden
- Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT): Downhill Wengen, Downhill Courchevel, Super-G Courchevel
- Atle Lie McGrath (NOR): Slalom Flachau, Slalom Meribel
- Elena Curtoni (ITA): Super-G Cortina
- Cornelia Hütter (AUT): Super-G Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR): Super-G Courchevel
More Olympic medals and podium finishes by Alexis Pinturault (FRA), Johan Clarey (FRA), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (USA), Wendy Holdener (SUI), Mathieu Faivre (FRA), James Crawford (CAN), Christine Scheyer (AUT), Lena Dürr (GER), Broderick Thompson (CAN), Alexander Schmid (GER), Anna Swenn-Larsson (SWE) and Ariane Rädler (AUT).