Austrian skier wants to get kids into sport before life gets tough

Simon Lack’s family drew into his hotel room a Swiss army pack that contained a child’s plush hat from a travel company, along with an assortment of souvenirs and a magazine entitled “Wedding to Wear.” The bag brim was filled with souvenirs intended to evoke a momentous occasion. It proved the start of a very bad one.

When Lack, a 59-year-old former Alpine racer who is now one of Austria’s top ski managers, arrived at the World Cup women’s downhill in Crans Montana, Switzerland, on Friday, the ski and snowboard event was postponed to Saturday morning.

That meant Lack had to race, and he found himself racing without his white gold ski cross jacket – he can’t wear it during races in which crashes don’t result in injury.

He did, however, re-enter the stadium at altitude wearing a ski cross jacket that had been supplied by the event organizers.

Lack said he enjoyed his time out on the mountain, the only winter events on the Alpine calendar on European soil, and described it as “an emotional race because when you go out there you have no idea how you’re going to react.”

He trailed first-placed Wout Poels of the Netherlands by 0.13 seconds at the final downhill despite positive spins at the top and in the final few gates.

Poels won by 0.31 seconds ahead of teammate Nadia Fanchini with Germany’s Kathrin Zettel third.

It was Lack’s first top-10 result since 2015.

With Austria missing all the events this season, Lack has taken it upon himself to lead the charge at the world championships next month.

“I don’t want to wait a few years, this is why I took over this job. I made some big decisions,” Lack said in a telephone interview, adding that his promotion of Anna Gross to the senior women’s team had paid off with her sixth-place downhill finish.

“It was a very difficult decision, Anna didn’t believe that I would take her place, she was happy and nervous,” Lack said. “But we’re friends and now I am very happy for her and for Austria.”

Results from the race show that 60 percent of Austrians attend the Austrian winter events, despite long lineups for buses that bring them to the summit. Some of the fastest group of fans, in fact, are usually crew members, coaches and support staff who finish in last place, their hearts still pumping with the desperation of someone who has run out of energy or is competing against opposition who are stronger.

These Austrian skiers, however, are more than just endurance machines who push themselves through the grueling Alpine racing schedule.

“I feel sorry for the kids who have to come from such a long way to see a race,” Lack said. “They don’t get the feeling and I take this to heart. We have to keep such little kids in the sport and give them everything.”

Germany’s Petra Vlhova, the world downhill champion, won the super-G and took the lead in the overall World Cup standings.

This season’s super-G champion, Swiss Lara Gut, missed the race due to injury.

Austria’s Matthias Mayer took third in the men’s Super-G, followed by Henrik Kristoffersen, who is only 0.48 points behind overall leader Beat Feuz of Switzerland. Kristoffersen fell during a split second lead change during the run.

Mayer said he had no use for his slalom coach Axel Bosshard, who quit after the performance.

“I did the bad course and didn’t even thank Axel,” Mayer said. “He could have left me alone. He said that he could do a different job. It was the first time he didn’t say “yes’ to me.”

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