"Everything is ready to go"
Almost three weeks ago, German speed racer Thomas Dreßen celebrated a dream comeback and won the downhill from Lake Louise exactly one year after his ACL rupture. Ahead of the speed classic in Val Gardena/Gröden, the 26-year-old high-flyer agreed to an interview with the Saslong editorial team - and had only praising words for the OC team hosting the races.
Thomas, how did you find your way around the Saslong?
The conditions at the training run were really great. I have to be honest: Just a few days ago I wouldn't have thought that all the volunteers would be able to get the track in such good shape. The snow is extremely fast, contrary to the expectations of many, and that surprised me, too. Overall, iIt's amazing to race here against this mountain backdrop. The conditions in Val Gardena/Gröden are different this year. The warmer temperatures alone can cause some athletes to worry... The course is certainly different from what we are used to, but you have to be able to adjust to that when you compete in outdoor sports. After all, we train all year round to be able to successfully cope with the most varied conditions. However, the nature of the track is the same for all racers, so I don't pay much attention to the outside conditions.
It was once said that the training conditions in Val Gardena/Gröden can often vary significantly. How do you see this issue?
It is difficult for me to give a comprehensive answer, as I was not here last year due to injury. But since I have been in the World Cup, this track has always been in excellent condition. In other places - I won't name any names here - the training doesn’t always run as smoothly. Here in Val Gardena/Gröden, you cant help noticing that the organizers are keen on making it work. The training was not very easy, but the course was well prepared for the conditions. Your serious injury is now more than a year ago.
Does your knee still pinch from time to time?
Actually, I never felt any pain again, but here in Val Gardena/Gröden of all places the knee is a bit swollen again. I don't really know why - because there haven't been any risky moments or similar situations recently. Because of the swelling I also started the training a bit more relaxed. For a downhill skier, I am still relatively young, so there is no point in risking your head and neck if your body doesn't play along. So if my knee should cause problems ahead of the race, I don't know yet if I'll start - overdoing it or even taking any risk doesn't make much sense in this situation. Three weeks ago in Lake Louise, you sensationally raced to a comeback victory, but in Beaver Creek you finished 19th.
What are your plans for the races here in Val Gardena/Gröden?
If my body plays along and I can do my best, a top ten place is certainly possible. My training time surprised me a bit, as the run was certainly not optimal and I still finished in the top 20. If I manage a faultless race, then I think I will be able to place well. But I already know that the others are no course grazers either...(laughs) So far you have a 13th place on the Saslong as your best placing.
What was preventing you in the past to get to the podium?
To be honest, I don't really know myself. This year I would be more than satisfied with a top ten or top 15 place. But at the moment, health is the most important thing - although good skiing is always part of it. After Beaver Creek several media wrote 'goal reached, Dreßen is healthy at the finish' - but that alone is not my goal. If I ski badly and arrive safely, I am not satisfied either.