A forerunner turns into the home straight
Toni Aufschnaiter (23) may have ended his career as a skier after last season, but he is still fit enough for the Streif. While his form still allows, he once again joined the team of forerunners at the 84th Hahnenkamm Races.
A former racer from Kitzbühel's neighbouring village of Jochberg has finally come home to roost: he may have ended his active career, but still harboured aspirations of skiing down "his" Streif as a forerunner one last time. Toni Aufschnaiter successfully achieved exactly that during the first training session on Tuesday: "I wanted to take the plunge one more time, while I’m still fit enough," says the 23-year-old. After this race weekend, he will be focussing on his sports science studies in Innsbruck. From 2016 to 2023, he competed in FIS races and participated in the European Cup no less than five times. That way of life, however, is over now.
Toni Aufschnaiter is especially fond of the Streif. This year is his fourth time in the team of forerunners, which this year includes Nicolas Hofer, Elias Gmeinbauer, Philipp Lintschinger, Jakob Jägersberger and Hannes Endstrasser: "My favourite sections are Alte Schneise and Seidlalm, but the Mausefalle is also really cool this year," says Toni Aufschnaiter, summing up his runs from Tuesday and Wednesday. He only ever feels a little nervous in the Start House when the countdown begins: "You know there's no turning back. But as soon as you've started, your instinct kicks in. Every time he crosses the finish line, he may be out of breath, "but pretty relieved that I made it."
A forerunner needs to be in excellent physical condition and experienced: "Experience means: plenty of practice in the speed disciplines," says Chief of Race Mario Mittermayer-Weinhandl and that's why active or former racers from the FIS and European Cup circuits are ideal forerunners. Their task is also "not to push the limit", explains Mario Mittermayer-Weinhandl: "Forerunners should race down well and athletically, but they shouldn't treat it like a race. They are responsible for testing the Streif under race conditions – in terms of slope quality and timekeeping - but without any pressure." All racers and coaches as well as those watching from the side line benefit from their expertise, for instance: What to expect from the jumps?
And what does Toni Aufschnaiter think about his performance thus far this week: "I’m not overly happy with it, but won’t lose any more sleep about it."
Photo © K.S.C./floobe