If we would be talking about 27-year-old Lukas Klapfer in other teams, we would probably be saying "one of the more experienced athletes". In the Austrian team, Klapfer is still among the young ones with veterans Mario Stecher, Wilhelm Denifl, Christoph Bieler and also Bernhard Gruber, who are all above 30 years old, manning the helm of the Austrian ship for many years now.
The season 2013/14 has seen a different Austrian team and a different Lukas Klapfer, though. While the "old school" had problems of getting into gear in the first four World Cup stops, Klapfer has continuously improved his results inside the Top Ten, and in three of the six Individual competitions so far, has claimed the title of best Austrian.
No comparison to the Lukas Klapfer who possibly cost the Austrian team a medal at the team event at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme last winter when he couldn't hold on to Japanese and U.S. skiers Akito Watabe and Todd Lodwick and had to endure hostilities on his facebook page afterwards. A bitter pill for the Styrian to swallow but after the motto "you live and you learn", Klapfer continued to work and improve.
Currently, all trajectories point upwards: in the last race in Schonach, a supremely confident Klapfer attacked the big names of Nordic Combined like Jason Lamy Chappuis and Eric Frenzel in the last lap and although he missed the podium by a hair's breath in the end and had to settle for rank four, the 27-year old from St. Peter Freienstein is in the process of establishing himself in the world's elite with this second best result of his career so far.
"My attack came a little bit early, so I was alone until the home stretch and then I did not have enough power. But I am super happy because I wasn't expecting such a good result. Usually, I don't like these difficult conditions but the track became quite icy due to the rain and my skis were ideal for these conditions. Now I am looking forward to a couple of relaxed days at home", Klapfer concluded after the race.
For Christmas, Lukas Klapfer probably gave the best present to himself a couple of days early. A feat making him the last Athlete of the Week of 2013. And who knows where the upward trajectory will end in 2014 when all sights will to be set on the Nordic Combined Triple and Sochi.