2009-2010 Nations Cup Ranking: 20th (229 pts)
2010-2011 Nations Cup Ranking: 19th (295 pts)
Men: 14th (162 pts)
Women: 18th (133 pts)
2011/2012 World Cup Team
What You May Have Missed Last Season
Austria made modest gains on the World Cup scene last year due mostly to one man – Bernhard Tritscher. The speedy Austrian had style, rocking a fluorescent yellow headband in his breakout rookie World Cup season, collecting 85 World Cup points, all in skate sprints.
Similar to a lot of young sprinters, 23 year old Tritscher has serious qualifying speed, picking up five top 15 qualifying results, including a surprising qualifying win during the skate sprint in Toblach, Italy, on the Tour de Ski before dropping to 11th on the day.
Tritscher also paired up with Austrian A-Team member Harald Wurm to finish 4th in the Dusseldorf team sprint, out-gunning the Russians second team of Nikita Kruikov and Andrey Parfenov to the line.
As for the Austrian women, Katerina Smutna was the only game in town. She was fairly consistent in sprinting, but she took a step backwards in her results. Smutna regularly qualifies quickly, but last season she couldn’t seem to manage to turn her spot in the rounds into top 10 or even top 20 results.
Nevertheless, she is consistent, picking up points in 14 World Cup races, but never making the next step. She failed to record a single top 10 this season, which crushed any chance at doing much better than her 43rd place in the World Cup overall.
What You Need To Know for This Season
Tritscher has plenty of skate speed, but can’t really classic sprint – he failed to qualify in the kick-and-glide technique. He contested only one classic sprint, in Oberhof, Germany, during the Tour de Ski finishing 38th.
As well, Tritscher and Smutna won the ‘Sk8 the Ring’ rollerski race on an auto-racing track in Salzberg, Austria, in September against some solid competition. Tritscher’s finishing straight move was even compared to Petter Northug, no small complement (or insult, depending on your view of the Norwegian).
Also, this winter Austria is hosting the first Youth Winter Olympic Games, in historical Innsbruck, Austria.
While the Austrian cross country ski program is by now so far removed from the scandal, it is worth mentioning that the ongoing Walter Mayer saga finally came to an end, with the dishonored coach being sentenced to a jail term of 15 months.
Who You Should Watch
Bernhard Tritscher could easily be a force this season. He’s part of the next wave of the sprint generation that includes rising stars such as Italian Federico Pellegrino and Canadian Len Valjas, and he has skate speed to burn.
While a sophomore slump isn’t out of the question for the classic-impaired Austrian, his earned experience on the World Cup last season should be a boost for the upcoming campaign, as well as his long-term prospects.
Oh, and Tritscher has been doing some light strength work in the off-season – other skiers might want to watch out.