Dressen, Rebensburg raise German ski team’s Olympic hopes

Associated Press

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — The German ski team’s hopes of Olympic success have been buoyed by the emergence of Thomas Dressen and return to form of Viktoria Rebensburg.

The 24-year-old Dressen upset the favorites in Kitzbuehel, Austria last weekend, as Germany’s 13-year wait for a men’s World Cup downhill victory was finally brought to an end. The nation’s new ski star is down as a potential gold-winner in Pyeongchang.

“If you win Kitzbuehel directly before the Olympics, then you are one of the favorites,” German team coach Mathias Berthold said.

Three days after Dressen’s historic success, Rebensburg claimed her third giant slalom win of the season on Tuesday in San Vigilio di Marebbe, Italy.

“I am here and I am fast, that’s the most important thing,” said Rebensburg, who missed three races during the Christmas period because of ‘flu. “It’s clear I missed a few days. I have to see that I can prepare well.”

It was the 16th career World Cup win for Rebensburg, who also won the giant slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and her latest victory underlined her status as one of the favorites for Pyeongchang.

“That was some statement,” German team director Wolfgang Maier said.

But all the attention is on Dressen this weekend as he returns to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where he was born, for Saturday’s downhill and Sunday’s giant slalom.

“There’s nothing nicer than racing a World Cup at home,” Dressen said on Thursday after clocking the fastest speed of 129.11 kph (80.2 mph) in training on the Kandahar course.

Dressen grew up in Mittenwald, about half an hour by car from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, so he will be able to count on fevered support as he goes for his third podium-finish of the season.

Before Kitzbuehel, the German men’s team had not won a downhill since Max Rauffer triumphed in Val Gardena, Italy, in December 2004.

But Dressen and fellow youngsters Andreas Sander and Josef Ferstl – the son of two-time Kitzbuehel winner Sepp Ferstl – have been posting good results in the past two seasons, suggesting it was just a matter of time before the breakthrough finally came.

Berthold had been expecting it to come from Sander or Ferstl, however – the latter won a super-G in Val Gardena, Italy, last month – while Dressen wasn’t expected to progress so quickly.

A downhill silver medalist at the 2014 junior world championships, Dressen got his fifth top-10 result this season, including his first career podium by placing third in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in December.

After winning in Kitzbuehel, Dressen held aloft his skis and screamed with joy, before he dropped to his knee for a pause. It was the moment, he later said, that he thought of his father, Dirk Dressen, who was killed in a ski lift accident in nearby Soelden in 2005.

Thomas, then 12 years old, continued skiing for his father, who was also his coach at the time.

“But the thanks doesn’t just go above, but also to my mama (Martina). If she hadn’t supported me and stood by me, I wouldn’t be here,” Dressen said.