Werner Heel, the last victorious "Azzurro" on the Saslong
It has been a long time since the Italian national anthem was played at the Saslong Classic in honor of the winner. 13 years ago, on December 19, 2008, Werner Heel won the super-G in Val Gardena/Gröden ahead of Didier Defago (Switzerland) and Patrik Jaerbyn (Sweden). A day that is still very present in the 39-year-old from the Passeier valley and still arouses emotions.
"The best thing is that over time you realize more and more how nice it actually is to win in Val Gardena/Gröden. Every year, when the races are around the corner again, you are reminded of that. And I was the last racer from the Italian team to win it. And that's cool, really phenomenal," Werner Heel is justifiably proud of one of his total of three World Cup victories.
Werner Heel retired from skiing two years ago. But the ex-professional from the Passeier Valley (Walten) can't do without skiing altogether. "After my career ended, I first took a break for a year, then I have already found a new passion. I am now a talent scout for the ski brand Atomic - a job that I like very much. It was obvious that I would do something in this field after my active career. I've had so much experience in this field, you just have to stick with it," says Heel.
In private life, little Ben keeps Werner Heel on his toes
In his private life, too, Werner Heel has had his hands full for almost six months. He and his partner, former ski racer Manuela Mölgg, became parents to little Ben on May 6. "This has changed our lives a lot, of course, but in a positive way. We just enjoy the time, it's always nice to come home," enthuses the 39-year-old.
With such dispositions, the son can only become a skier - right? "Let's see," laughs Heel. "We would of course welcome it if he decided to become an athlete. What he wants to do then is his decision. If he becomes a skier, then we will of course try to help him as much as possible with our experiences."
It is certain that Werner Heel will be on site at the World Cup in Val Gardena/Gröden again this year. “Yes, of course! I've already signed up," the Olympic bronze medalist in the 2010 Vancouver super-G admits. Heel sees the Americans and the Norwegians in the role of favorites this year. "They have always been fast here. I'm especially excited about Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. He's been injured, but he's a great skier." He also has high hopes for the home athletes. "Maybe this year the moment has come and another Azzurro will replace me. We will see...", Heel is looking forward to the excitement.