The best German ski jumper watched Innsbruck’s famous Bergisel ski jump on Wednesday afternoon in his hotel room on TV. It is not known what insights Karl Geiger, who had sensationally failed in qualifying the day before, gained. However, his wish that his teammates should “cleverly rock” the third station of the 71st Four Hills Tournament was definitely not fulfilled. Instead, there was a debacle in front of 18,700 fans in Austria with one of the worst tour results of all time: The best German was, significantly, young talent Philipp Raimund in 13th place.
A high-class air show was offered by others. After two sovereign victories by Halvor Egner Granerud in the two show jumping competitions in Germany, the Norwegian was beaten this time by Dawid Kubacki. Poland’s overall World Cup leader triumphed thanks to a very strong first jump with a 3.5 point lead over second-placed Granerud, who almost overtook Kubacki in the second round with the outstanding day’s best jump of 133 meters.
The high-flyer takes a lead of 23.3 points (equivalent to almost 13 meters) in the duel against Kubacki in the final in Bischofshofen on Friday (4.30 p.m. / ZDF and Eurosport) and is thus facing the first Norwegian tournament victory in 16 years. The double Olympic champion Andreas Wellinger, who fell in 18th place in Innsbruck, is now only eighth in the overall ranking, already 101.4 points behind.
“It hurts very much. We came here with different goals and after a good start in Oberstdorf we fell far behind. It’s a difficult situation,” admitted national coach Stefan Horngacher. Especially in the flight phase, but also in terms of self-confidence, the Germans are currently far away from the absolute world elite. Some experts also speak of material disadvantages.
Horngacher explained that he was “definitely not at a loss”, but that we now had to “search for and find the missing meters”. This was also made clear by the remaining German placements in Innsbruck: Markus Eisenbichler, who had become world champion four years ago at the same place and had also won gold in the team with Geiger, ended up in 22nd place. Really satisfied was therefore after the best World Cup -The result of his career can only be Raimund: “I really enjoy the tour, especially since I came here without big goals.”
On the other hand, Karl Geiger wanted to compete for the tournament victory, but lost all chances after failing to qualify. Innsbruck thus confirmed its reputation as the mountain of destiny for German ski jumpers: Severin Freund (2016) and Richard Freitag (2018) had to bury their hopes of overall victory after falling on Bergisel. Eisenbichler (2019/2021) and Geiger (2020/2021) fell too far behind after weaker jumps in difficult wind conditions. This time, however, the absolute low point was reached in the crisis.
The Germans once again clearly missed out on the podium, there was only one top 3 finish throughout the winter. National coach Stefan Horngacher is in the biggest crisis of his term. »The way the tour has gone so far is definitely a disappointment. We have higher standards,” explained Horst Hüttel. However, the sports director for ski jumping in the German Ski Association (DSV) also referred to the successes of head coach Horngacher in the last three winters and does not want to raise any doubts about the Austrian: “We will certainly not lose our nerve now, because the coaches are working at full capacity. Now you have to see what happens in the next few weeks and what the trainers come up with.« Finally, this winter the World Cup in Planica, Slovenia (February 23 to March 5) is on the agenda, where the German pilots compete in the team competition and in the Mixed to compete as defending champions.
In any case, the five-time world champion Karl Geiger wants to start preparing for it at the final of the tour in Bischofshofen: »The end in Innsbruck was extremely bitter and I had to nibble on it. But I’ll get over it and not give up.” What else could he say? In any case, only the principle of hope remains for the German ski jumpers.