Why Katharina Althaus was disqualified

Es was supposed to be a competition that conveyed a spirit of optimism. But for the ski jumping selection of the German Ski Association (DSV), the premiere of the mixed competition at the Olympics took a course that caused displeasure – and the reverberations of which could lead to personal consequences. When the medals for the teams of four were awarded on Monday in Zhangjiakou, Selina Freitag, Katharina Althaus, Constantin Schmid and Karl Geiger were no longer allowed to take part: The quartet, which had had the best chance of landing on the podium up to this point, got through the disqualification of Katharina Althaus ruined all chances, just as Geiger had landed at a respectable 101.5 meters.

The material control, which was under the supervision of the Finn Mika Jukkara and the Pole Aga Baczkowska, complained about Althaus’s suit, which is said to have not conformed to the rules. Among other things, the tests ensure that the distance between the body and the fabric cover is no more than three centimeters at any point; the air permeability is also examined. This is intended to prevent unauthorized aerodynamic advantages in aviation from occurring with the help of unauthorized interventions in the equipment.

The Germans reacted angrily to the exclusion. Stefan Horngacher, the men’s national coach, spoke of “a Punch and Judy show”. He reproached the inspectors of the International Ski Federation (FIS): “They’re suddenly starting to measure differently at the Olympics,” said Horngacher, pointing out that “there were always problems in the men’s area this winter, too.”

Jukkara only took up his post last fall, replacing long-time law enforcement officer Josef Gratzer from Austria. “The new inspector has tightened the controls extremely – it feels like a lot tighter for the German ski jumpers,” said Horngacher. He indicated that he was thinking about continuing his job under these circumstances, in which he is contractually bound to DSV until the end of this season.

Not only the Germans were not aware of any wrongdoing. The Austrians, Norwegians and Japanese were also taken out of the competition. They also got a jumper who is said to have violated the regulations with their outfit. According to reports, everyone complained that the tolerance limit for how far the plastic can be stretched had been exceeded in the crotch. Daniela Iraschko-Stolz from Team Austria had tears running down her cheeks, as did Sara Takanashi from Japan and Katharina Althaus from Oberstdorf, who won silver in the individual event on Saturday.

“This is scandalous”

Horst Hüttel, the sports director of the DSV, said that the 25-year-old “of course” started with the same material as when she won the medal, where everything went right – and that there were no objections. “Today the checks were made with different standards, we don’t have any other explanation. This is a total mess. Showing the athletes like that is strong stuff. This is scandalous.”

The Slovenians emerged victorious from this unpredictable dispute due to the chaotic influences, relegating the team of the Russian Olympic Committee to second place. Surprisingly, third place went to Canada. Hüttel pointed out that 16 athletes who had prepared intensively for a big performance had been deprived of the reward for their efforts: “The four largest nations are not all stupid and want to manipulate. That’s how you ruin things a bit.”

Katharina Althaus reported that she had been checked out more comprehensively “than ever before”. The visitation lasted about 20 minutes, for which she usually only has to estimate a fraction of the time in everyday life during the World Cup. On Monday she got the impression that people kept insisting “until something was found”. She was “pissed off and disappointed. It really hurts. I feel sorry for the team that my name is there,” Althaus said. Geiger thought it was “a bottomless cheek”.

The possibility of a joint protest, which had been envisaged by the DSV and the Austrian Ski Association to contradict the judgments they found intolerable, was rejected after a moment of discussion. The fair gesture ended a premiere that united winners and losers in one thought: They could hardly believe what had just happened in those memorable two hours.

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