German athletes go for gold at Winter Olympics in Vancouver

A winter-sports powerhouse, Germany is hoping to dominate the Olympic Games starting in Vancouver on Friday.

German athletes go for gold at Winter Olympics in Vancouver
Photo: DPA

But the German athletes will have their work cut out for them if they wish to repeat their feat of winning the most medals as they did four years ago in Turin. Host nation Canada, the United States, Norway, Austria and Russia are Germany’s strongest rivals for gold, silver and bronze.

The German Olympic team is sends a total of 153 athletes to this year’s Winter Games and quite a few of them are medal contenders.

Certainly that´s true for the biathlon gold-hopeful Magdalena Neuner, who shows enthusiasm for the Olympic flair and the cross-country ski trails.

“The conditions are heavenly. It´s almost like vacation. I’m enjoying it,” she said recently on her 23rd birthday, which was sweetened by a chocolate cake. The six-time world champion now wants some gold icing on top at Vancouver.

“It´s my dream to be Olympic champion,“ said Neuner. “If I can perform as smoothly in the firing range as in training, then I know victory is possible.”

The Bavarian, along with world champion sprinter Kathi Wilhelm, Andrea Henkel and Simone Hauswald could win a first medal on Saturday, thereby seeing the German effort off to a perfect start.

And if the Biathlon races go smoothly then the hard-running Neuner won´t exclude a start in the cross-country relay: “It´s already in the back of my mind, but the Biathlon takes first priority.”

The German Ski Team intends to contribute the majority of Olympic medals in Vancouver.

“Fifteen medals plus some are our target. The more widely dispersed the better. That we´re successful in every area is just as important as the number of medals,” said ski boss Alfons Hörmann.

Among the German gold medal hopefuls are world champion slalom racer Maria Riesch, the figure skating pair Robin Szolkowy and Aljona Savchenko, speed skater Jenny Wolf, the two-time Olympic winner bobsled ace André Langen as well as the luge specialist Tatjana Hüfner and the two-seater team of André Florschütz and Torsten Wustlich.

Dark horse candidates for gold include Kitzbühel champion Felix Neureuther for the slalom and Amelie Kober, who secured nine world cup snowboarding victories before Vancouver.

But the chances of two-time Olympic champion speed skater Anni Friesinger-Postma are uncertain, since the 33-year-old is struggling to come back from a knee injury and controversy surrounding the team doctor. But she hasn’t lost her winning mindset.

“The first day on the ice was good. Since I´ve been here there´s only been sunshine, and I see that as a good omen,” Friesinger-Postma said.

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German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.