Austria has tough act to follow at ski worlds

Updated 05 February 2013
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Austria has tough act to follow at ski worlds

SCHLADMING, Austria: Marcel Hirscher, Anna Fenninger and their teammates will face an uphill task to repeat Austria’s past successes at the Alpine skiing world championships when the racing starts on home snow this week.
Schladming, a small mining town in the province of Styria with less than 5,000 inhabitants, is expecting a total of 400,000 visitors during the worlds, which start today with the women’s super-G and end Feb. 17 with the men’s slalom.
An average crowd of 30,000 is expected at each race, with many of the fans hoping for a repeat of Austria’s success in 2011 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, when Austria topped the medal table with four golds, three silvers and one bronze.
However, the Austrian team is likely to have a hard time matching that feat this time around.
Downhill and super-G champion Elisabeth Goergl has failed to finish in the top 10 of any speed race this season and slalom champion Marlies Schild is still doubtful after knee surgery in December, increasing pressure on super-combined champion Fenninger.
Fierce competition is expected from the United States — with Lindsey Vonn back to her usual strength after fighting a mid-season intestinal illness and teenager Mikaela Shiffrin leading the slalom standings — and from Slovenia.
Tina Maze has dominated the World Cup season so far, winning seven races and having 10 more top-three finishes in all five Alpine disciplines, putting the Slovenian in contention to beat Austrian great Hermann Maier’s record of 2,000 World Cup points in one season.
Maze could also become the first woman to medal in all five individual events at a single world championship. The only skier achieving that feat was Lasse Kjus of Norway at the 1999 championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado.
On the men’s side, Austria has high hopes for overall World Cup champion Hirscher, who missed the 2011 worlds with a broken foot.
Hirscher earned 13 podiums, including six victories, this season. The Austrian will skip the speed races to fully focus on his strongest disciplines, slalom and giant slalom, though he was considering a start in the super-combined event.
In GS, defending world champion Ted Ligety looks to be the man to beat after taking four races with huge winning margins, despite having to use new skis following a rule change by the governing body which the American criticized before the season started.
In the speed events, former overall champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who took the super-combined title two years ago, is among the favorites again after winning three super-G races and a downhill.
However, the World Cup has not always been the best indicator of who might do well at world championships. Christof Innerhofer of Italy wasn’t enjoying a particularly outstanding season when he picked up three medals in Garmisch-Partenkirchen two years ago.
The one certainty is that the competition hosts have made every effort to ensure it goes well.
Local organizers have invested €70 million ($95 million) in recent years to build courses and infrastructure for skiing’s 13-day marquee event.
“The finish stadium is unique, something the ski sport hasn’t seen before,” said Hans Pum, Alpine director of the Austrian ski federation.

Still, it will need a string of good results by the Austrian team to turn the world championships into the success story the ski-mad nation is hoping for.
“We will evaluate the whole event after 14 days,” said Reinhold Zitz, director of the local organizing committee. “A key aspect is going to be whether the Austrian ski stars have been successful. I am sure they will.”
The world championships return to Schladming after 31 years, but memories of the 1982 event will be distant.
Men and women race on separate courses for most events but they now share the same finish area. The stadium and the stands along the courses combine for a capacity crowd of 32,000.
Schladming’s bid to host the worlds for a second time was unsuccessful twice before a third attempt was awarded in 2008.
The construction works that followed will also benefit the annual night slalom in the resort, which has been a stop on the men’s World Cup circuit every year since 1997.


Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

Updated 23 April 2018
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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

  • Young Scottish star was very impressive during Liverpool's 5-1 aggregate destruction of Man City in last-eight clash.
  • Robertson refuses to take Roma lightly after their shock victory over Barcelona in the last round.

LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash 
at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.”
Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million).
But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory.
“He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”

 

HEART OF GOLD

Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”