Eagle of Innsbruck ready to soar to greater heights
Olympic gold medallist, five-time world champion, World Cup record-holder and current world number one, Gregor Schlierenzauer will be looking to spearhead the Austrian ski jumping team to glory in Sochi.
Born in the shadow of Innsbruck's legendary ski jump, 23-year-old Gregor Schlierenzauer has enjoyed a meteoric rise in his sport. During the 2012-13 season alone, the Austrian ski jumper claimed three medals at the 2013 World Championships at Val di Fiemme (ITA) – including a fourth successive gold in the team large hill – and won the prestigious Four Hills Tournament title for the second year running; meanwhile in the FIS World Cup he secured 10 wins and 19 podium finishes to retain his crystal ball in superlative style. On 2-3 February, he secured the record for wins on the world circuit with a double victory on the Harrachov flying hill, overtaking Finland's Matty Nykänen (46 wins). Since then, he has taken his victory tally beyond the fifty-mark. “I've won almost everything there is to win; that makes things simpler,” he says.
“Schlieri”, as he is known, arrived at his first Winter Games, Vancouver 2010, brimming with confidence from a 2008-9 season in which he set a record of 13 wins in the FIS World Cup. Alongside Wolfgang Loitzl, Andreas Kofler and Thomas Morgenstern he helped Austria secure gold on the large hill in Whistler at Vancouver 2010, producing two enormous jumps of 144.90m and 145.20m to beat Germany (silver) and Norway (bronze). He also won two individual bronze medals on the small hill and large hill in Vancouver, joining Switzerland's Simon Ammann (gold) and Poland's Adam Malysz (silver) on the podium on both occasions.
“Olympic gold would be the icing on the cake”
The man they also call “the Eagle of Innsbruck” described Sochi 2014 as his main focus and source of motivation. “Winning an Olympic gold is the greatest possible achievement for an athlete,” he said. “But on the other side, we are also talking about the shape on that particular day, luck with the wind conditions. Today, I’m at the point where I’ve won the Four Hills and I've got the most victories in the World Cup, so Olympic gold stands above all for me.” It would also be a huge source of pride for his mother, Angelika, with whom he recently featured in a film, produced by IOC Partner, Procter & Gamble for the “Raising an Olympian” series.
On 29 November 2013 Schlierenzauer kickstarted his Olympic winter campaign with a 51st world circuit victory, on the hill in Kuusamo (FIN), where he was the only competitor to fly more than 140m. That win left him wanting more: “I'm aiming for a successful route to the Games, because there are plenty of prizes to be won in the meantime. I'm still hungry for success!”
“Schlieri” has already made his mark on the HS106 hill at RusSki Gorki in Sochi, excelling in the World Cup event staged there in December 2012. However, as he gears up for a defence of the team title, and goes in search of a first individual gold, he knows that he faces a tough challenge. “The Germans have made a lot of progress and are now a very strong team, and I'm wary of the Norwegians too,” he notes. “But above all, I'm focusing on myself. I want to win at Sochi, and I can.”
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