PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - If strength, aggression and daring could decide the men’s Olympic downhill title, then Thomas Dressen would be the man to beat.
The question, however, is whether the Jeongseon run in the South Korean mountains is hair-raising enough to suit the young German’s style.
The 24-year-old arrives at the Olympics full of confidence after his surprise victory last month on the Hahnenkamm run at Kitzbuehel in Austria, whose notorious jumps and bumps make it the most spectacular on the World Cup circuit.
Jeongseon, by comparison, has been described by some of the world’s leading skiers as relatively straightforward, suggesting that winning may be less about risk-taking and more about finding the most precise line.
“In my opinion it’s not that difficult like Kitzbuehel or Garmisch, like the last courses we skied, but mostly on easy courses it’s difficult to be fast but easy to lose a lot of time,” Dressen told reporters on Friday.
“It will either be that someone will have the race of their life and will be a few seconds ahead, or it will be extremely tight. But I think it will be tight.”
A victory for Dressen would be a historic achievement — remarkably, no German man has ever triumphed in the Olympic downhill, while the women’s race has been won five times by four of his compatriots.
Having placed just 31st in the first round of training on Thursday, Dressen stepped up the pace on Friday by moving to ninth, 0.70 seconds behind leader Christof Innerhofer of Italy.
“I felt better on my skis and in the downhill it’s all about feeling good. Feeling good gives you confidence and then you can take more risks,” he said. “You have to race with a lot of feeling.”
Dressen’s childhood was marked by a family tragedy.
He dedicated his Kitzbuehel triumph last month to his father Dirk, who was one of nine people killed when a helicopter dropped a concrete block on a cable car in the Austrian ski resort of Soelden in 2005.
Asked about his biggest hero in skiing, he cites Austria’s double Olympic champion Hermann Maier.
“Not because of his achievements and success, but because of his will to give it everything and to come back and not to give a shit about what others are saying about him.”
Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by John O'Brien