Sölden Report: Aamodt out, Raich and Maier to race on Atomic boots


Sölden Report: Aamodt out, Raich and Maier to race on Atomic boots{mosimage}Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway has decided to skip the World Cup opening giant slalom this weekend in Sölden, and left the Austrian town on Tuesday after productive training. Meanwhile Lange has confirmed that two of the boot manufacturer’s top athletes, Hermann Maier and Benni Raich, will race with Atomic boots.

Both revelations came during a special Dynastar/Lange/Look press conference on Thursday afternoon here in Sölden, where the sport has come together for the first World Cup. Many of the brands’ top athletes were present, but Lasse Kjus stole the show.

“Kjetil has been tremendous in the camps this summer, especially in speed where he had some best times,” said Lasse Kjus during a Dynastar press conference on Thursday afternoon. But Aamodt was not at his buddy’s side because he left town several days earlier, deciding that it was better to rest than to compete and risk aggravating an ankle that he broke last year. “He’s still a little stiff in the ankle, especially in the technical events,” said Kjus.

Michel Vion, the race director for Dynastar, oversaw the press conference where all of the top Dynastar athletes were present, including Jean Pierre Vidal, Peter Fill, Joel Chenal, and Trine Bakke-Rognmo.

“Hermann Maier and Benni Raich will race on Atomic boots this weekend and decide after,” said Vion, responding to rumors that the two top Austrians had signed contracts with Atomic and were moving off of the historically dominant Lange boot. “My feeling is that Benni, he will switch, but that Hermann is still thinking.”

It is a special arrangement that allows the two Austrians to race on Atomics before officially switching allegiance. Because of heavy snowstorms at the Austrian men’s team camp in this summer in New Zealand, the two never had a chance to compare boots in scientific testing.

“It’s impossible,” said Vion, when asked if he would let athletes use Lange boots for some disciplines and Atomic boots for others. “Normally this is not the way of the Austrian ski pool, and of course it will not work for us.”

Despite his mellow reserve, Kjus stole the show at the conference, gamely setting himself up for jokes about his age. At 34, he is one of the World Cup’s oldest athletes. Patrick Lang, the moderator of the question-and-answer period, referred to him once as “Grampa Kjus,” and another time mentioned his beard, which is now salt-and-pepper gray.

“Do you have any questions for Lasse, who has been on the World Cup since the sixties,” Lang asked of Resi Stiegler, who was present in the line-up of Lange/Dynastar talent. Before Stiegler could ask, Kjus suggested a question for her: “Ask me how old I really am.”

At 18, Stiegler is just more than half the age of Kjus, who has won 16 Olympic and World Championship medals. She will race at Sölden this Saturday.

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