What is Your Limit? The Head Press Conference unveiled in Soelden

Ted Ligety - Picture Hans Bezard / HEAD

The Start of the Soelden World Cup weekend always sees a lot of the Ski businesses hosting press conferences. The Head press conference is always well attended due to the plethora of true World Cup stars in attendance. This year the return of Bode Miller and Beat Feuz headlined the conference … and the small matter of Lindsey Vonn having left Soelden the day before did not dampen things!

CEO of Head, Johan Eliasch was first up on to the podium to be questioned by former Head racer Marco Buechel. Having seen his skis carry racers to five Gold medals at the World Championships, 10 medals in all, Eliasch was delighted with this haul especially considering all the injuries that had occurred as well. “We had a bad year with injuries,” explained Eliasch. Lindsey Vonn, Beat Feuz, Bode Miller and Kjetil Jansrud all suffered season ending injuries. “We won more medals than the other ski constructors so it was not too bad. I am really happy with last year.”

CEO of HEAD Johan Eliasch talks with Marco Buechel - picture Hans Bezard
CEO of HEAD Johan Eliasch talks with Marco Buechel – picture Hans Bezard

So what goals has he set the team for the forthcoming season? “With the Olympics we have to set targets high, in Whistler we won 5 Gold, 3 silver, 6 bronze…that is the target! This is possible and it is doable.”

Asked if the Overall or medals at the Olympics were more important, Eliasch responded: “BOTH but the Olympic Winter Games are much more important.”

When you look at the cost of assembling the talent of racers using Head, the investment is now starting bring benefits as people associate Head with success. When racers want to do well, they want to use the same equipment as those that are winning and this is now showing in sales, Eliasch explained. “We are doing well, the market is bouncing back a bit, better than last year. There is strong growth in the race segment,” explained Eliasch to the assembled press before adding “Success in races comes back to support sales. People look to see what people are using.”

Rainer Salzgeber talks about the new products and the summer testing with Marco Buechel - picture Hans Bezard / HEAD
Rainer Salzgeber talks about the new products and the summer testing with Marco Buechel – picture Hans Bezard / HEAD

Next up was Rainer Salzgeber, the boss of the Race Team. Salzgeber and his crew of testers had a busy summer spent mainly with the US Ski Team in South America and the young Austrians in New Zealand. While Salzgeber could not reveal too much about the technical advances made in the kit, he did reveal that the new skis are faster than the old! Something that will worry the rest of the ski world!

Head have four new racers this season: Cyprien Richard (France – GS), Silvan Zurbriggan (Switzerland, Speed), Andrew Weibrecht (US – Speed) as well as Andreas Romar (Finland – speed). With all the signings having important parts to play in the business model for Head, the Business needs helping new signings. When the conversation moved on to Sochi, Salzgeber has been to Sochi to check out conditions yet feels that the challenge will be in training and getting the right equipment. Salzgeber admitted, “With the weather changing, we are lucky we have the knowledge from the US team who went their last season.” And then it was on to a brief word from all the athletes in the room.

First up was Julia Mancuso. Mancuso used her time away from skiing to do various other sporting activities, especially Paddle Boarding. “It helps in training, spend a lot of time outside. I train a lot outside!” she explained! Mancuso has Goals: “Every Olympics have been different, gold was great in Torino and the silvers in Whistler good as well now I am ready to win some more gold.” Asked how long she was away from home each season and despite trying to spend as much time in Hawaii she only gets home for three to four months a year. She is based in Soelden in the winter.

Julia Mancuso - picture Hans Bezard / HEAD
Julia Mancuso – picture Hans Bezard / HEAD

Next up was the star signing from 2012, Beat Feuz. Feuz was injured for the whole of last season and while his knee is getting better, he will not return to action until the races in Lake Louise in November. Feuz lives now in Austria and has spent a lot of the summer training on the glaciers doing Downhill and Super G training, as that is where his talents lie.

Beat Feuz - picture Hans Bezard / HEAD
Beat Feuz – picture Hans Bezard / HEAD

One of the most proactive racers in terms of using modern media to promote his racing is Ted Ligety. Ligety is sponsored by Go Pro and uses the cameras to get angles and images that traditional photographers cannot get. Ligety is one of the few athletes that spent time on the Sochi race piste last season and feels that this will benefit him in the run up to the Olympics, describing the race piste in Sochi as similar to the Beaver Creek slope with all its rolls. Ligety has spent the summer working on his slalom and also Super G so do not be surprised if he makes a concerted effort on the Overall this winter. “This is everyone’s goes so it will not be easy!” he explained.

Following what he described as a stupid fall at the World Championships, Kjetil Jansrud believes that he has had a “Close to perfect rehab. It has been tough but had to be patient. Take it step by step.” Jansrud has been back on skis for four months yet will not race in Soelden and he does not want to take chances. “At Lake Louise it will be nine months and I will be ready for racing and racing fast.”

Kjetil Jansrud - Picture Hans Bezard / HEAD
Kjetil Jansrud – Picture Hans Bezard / HEAD

Anna Fenninger is now sporting blond hair and is fresh from skiing on the sand dunes in Namibia! Fenninger has a special project in helping to save Cheetahs and joked that she hopes she is a quick as the endangered species! With last season having been a learning curve in how to deal with pressure from the Worlds being in Austria, she heads into the Olympic season full of hope and confidence! Marcel Mathis can no longer be called a rookie he feels. Having trained alongside Marcel Hirscher in the summer, he knows what is required to close the gap to Ligety and the rest!

Anna Fenninger - picture Hans Bezard / HEAD
Anna Fenninger – picture Hans Bezard / HEAD

The smiling Lizz Goergl explained, like many of the racers that she felt that Soelden was a little early for her, “I am still missing a little from my top form,” she explained. Goergl has trained hard yet smart this summer and feels the varied fitness programmes that she put in, including surfing, has benefitted her.

Maria Hoefl-Riesch is one of the few racers that compete in all five events and as such spent some time in New Zealand doing tech training and then went over to South America to train speed. Like Goergl she feels that Soelden is a bit early for her. Asked if she was excited or nervous and she replied “Same as each year. If you prepare too long you look forward.” After the near perfect season that Tina Maze has last season, Hoefl-Riesch will try to attack her yet when it comes to the Olympics she feels that the best preparation for these races is by doing well on the World Cup!

Aksel Lund Svindal is one of the most successful racers in terms of medals won at major Championships, eleven to date. While he is now 30, he feels that with speed racers racing on until their late thirties, he could have as long as two Olympic cycles left in his career. “Cool thing about sports is that if you train a lot you have more success,” Svindal explained. After having missed out on the Overall last season, this year he “wants to make world exciting. See if I can get close and make it hard for them.” With good fitness, Svindal always wants to ski more. This year he will do four of the disciplines but will also do some slalom, not Levi as that time will be better spent speed training he feels.

Bode Miller still has the ability to grab the attention of the media. It was no surprise his introduction was kept to near the end. With his knee in good shape, Miller described it as “a little puffy but it has been that way for ages, but it is better than 2001.” Away from the World Cup, Miller did not watch that much ski racing in the last year. “I watched the Super G with Ted at the Worlds but that was about it; Ted has an interesting way of doing things. I did not want to ski the World Championships, he described the conditions as ‘miserable.’ Miller has lost a lot of weight and is down to around 87KG. Despite this weight loss he feels that he still has the “chance to ski at a high level. It was a shock to ski on the race hill with less weight but I feel really good.” Asked how he has adapted to the new skis and he replied: “Not such a dramatic change for me. They are less fun and more work but seems ok for me!”

Bode Miller - picture Hans Bezard / HEAD
Bode Miller – picture Hans Bezard / HEAD

Mathias Mayer did not make the Austrian team qualification for Soelden but then he is more a speed racer and is gearing up for the opening of the speed races in North America. And just as the press conference was winding up, new signing Cyprien Richard arrived. As a racer in his twilight years of his career he explained that his decision to join the Head family was based around his desire to get back to the top of the sport again.

Like all racers, the goal is to win races; this is the Head team for 2013 – 2014!