While the Austrian team did not have that much to smile about in the first half of the season, it seems as if before Sochi, head coach Christoph Eugen's squad is slowly but surely getting into swing as seen this weekend in Oberstdorf with four athletes (Bieler, Denifl, Stecher and Gruber) in the Top Ten in the individual competition on Sunday and a third rank in the team event on Saturday.
One athlete who mainly contributed to this success was our Athlete of the Week: Christoph Bieler. Together with his fellow veterans in the very experienced Austrian team, the 36-year-old has mainly stepped up his game in the ski jumping part again. Bieler, known as a ski jumping expert among the Nordic Combined athletes, had two competition jumps over 130 metres in Oberstdorf, and even won the ski jumping round in Sunday's competition in quite challenging weather conditions where he could profit from his long years of experience.
"The course of the cross-country race in Oberstdorf simply was not good for me. In the end, I was missing some power to hang onto the podium. A final fourth place is very good but not what I hoped for after my jumping victory", a slightly disappointed Bieler stated after the race. But as after one competition is before the next, the Tyrolian has a new highlight to look forward to after his almost-podium: he is part of the just-announced Austrian Olympic team (together with Mario Stecher, Willi Denifl, Lukas Klapfer and Bernhard Gruber).
"We are going to Vienna now for all the official stuff like the Olympic outfitting and at the end of next week, we go back to Oberstdorf for one last camp to get the last preparations done. And on the sixth, it's off to Russia!" And if the curve of the Austrian level of performance is pointing in the same direction as it is now, everything might be possible for Bieler & Co. And in the excitement and hustle and bustle of the Olympic Games, experience might be quite the thing to have to prevail.