Tobias Müller is on the wild hunt

Et was a risk, no question. And at some point, of course, the doubters got in touch, questions like: did it have to be? Wasn’t it obvious that the decision would be risky, possibly jeopardizing his sporting future? Tobias Müller was world champion in telemark skiing seven times, overall World Cup winner three times, he had won 46 World Cups. He was one of the best telemarkers in the world, and yet he gave it all up. Started again from zero. In ski cross. The reason for this was: Olympics.

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Bernd Steinle

Editor in the department “Germany and the World”.

He’s at the start on Friday. Skicross has been part of the Winter Games since 2010. Telemark not yet. “I’ve never regretted the change,” says the 29-year-old from Allgäu from SC Fischen. “But I knew it would be a tough fight, a huge challenge.” But he was prepared for that. Müller is an extremely versatile skier, he started as an alpine racer in the Allgäu school squad, was a cross-country skier in the state squad and then, when he had to give up cross-country skiing for health reasons, found telemarking through a friend.

“For me, that was the ideal mix of cross-country skiing and alpine skiing.” Due to the parallel competitions in telemark, he was familiar with the special tension of having to ski against direct competitors, as in ski cross. He knew what it meant to drive for titles, even at world championships, he knew life as a competitive athlete. What he didn’t know was what defines ski cross: spectacular battles for positions, tight situations, shoulder-to-shoulder duels in which you have to assert yourself and assert yourself. But how do you learn ski cross?

Podium placement in mid-January

“At the beginning it is important to gain experience, to learn how to behave in runs,” says Müller. In ski cross, four athletes start in one run, a fast start is important, even if it is very rare for a driver to be able to pull away decisively, the power density is too high. So the only thing left to do is overtake on the course. “You have to be in the right place at the right time, assess situations correctly. Stay cool, wait for your chance and then make the right decision in a split second, otherwise it’s over.” Experience helps. It’s no wonder that the current world champion in ski cross has just turned 36: Swiss Alex Fiva.

In 2017, Tobias Müller started his first season as a ski crosser. He was on the road a lot in the European Cup and finished fifth overall. After that, the sports soldier tried to establish himself in the World Cup, collecting first top rankings there as well. Hip and back problems bothered him last year, they kept him busy all summer, but he finished eighth at the first World Cup in 2021/2022. He felt comfortable on the tracks, set the best qualifying time at the World Cup in Val Thorens (France) and finished fifth. In mid-January he went to his favorite race in Nakiska (Canada), where he made his first podium finish, third. And that was the goal: Participation in the Olympics was fixed.

Good results create security, and that, says Müller, “is important in ski cross”: the conviction to make the right decisions when there are four of you racing over winding, wavy, hard-frozen routes with many pitfalls. “You have to be sure that it will work.” This can only be simulated to a limited extent in training, even if the German ski crossers are in the fortunate position of being able to push each other on in a strong team. Florian Wilmsmann was second and third in the World Cup, Daniel Bohnacker once seventh. “We can do heats at a high level, but of course not with the very last effort,” says Müller.

The career changer has long since found favor with ski cross. The wild chase with sharp turns and airy jumps requires well-trained skiers: with a lot of speed at the start, high technical and coordination skills when skiing in a group, strength and endurance to stay up to the end of the run, and well-engineered tactics , to gain an advantage with clever maneuvers. “You have to be versatile and train in a multifaceted way,” says Müller. That’s his thing.

He gets along well with the track in Beijing and feels comfortable on the aggressive artificial snow. Nevertheless, Müller knows: “It’s a long way to the medals.” A lot can happen in the round of 16, quarters and semi-finals. And then there was the unfortunate brief appearance of Alexander Schmid, the giant slalom skier, who retired with an intermediate best time in the first round, which particularly moved Müller.

Schmid is his club colleague at SC Fischen – and his cousin. From time to time they still go skiing together, but before Beijing that was no longer possible for reasons of caution. But it would have been best anyway, says Müller, if the three of them had gone to the Olympics, with Alexander’s brother Manuel. Unfortunately, he was seriously injured during downhill training at the end of August, “that’s such a shame,” says Müller. After all: Proud of her, says Tobias Müller, the grandfather, who used to be an alpine racer himself, is already proud.

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