ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - The Austrian men’s ski jumping team, showing none of the cockiness it displayed before the 2010 Games, looks set to rely on two Olympic newcomers to help bolster the beleaguered squad.
Austria has traditionally been a major ski jumping power but comes to the Sochi Games below par.
Star jumper Gregor Schlierenzauer took three weeks off recently to improve his technique while fellow Olympic gold medalist Thomas Morgenstern is recovering from injuries suffered in falls in both December and January.
“Of course I do not feel 100 percent. Spending two weeks in hospital is not the way I’d have chosen to prepare myself,” Morgenstern told the team’s first Olympics news conference on Friday.
The 27-year-old, still bearing facial injuries from the December crash, did not take part in Friday’s training session for the normal hill competition on Sunday.
“I am very grateful to be here ... especially after these two crashes,” he said, admitting the session on Thursday had been exhausting.
The news conference was held in a small hot room and Schlierenzauer, 24, left after just five minutes because he was feeling unwell.
He did not jump in the last two World Cup competitions and said earlier in the day he had used the free time to analyze his form and to train.
“On the one hand I am fresh and in good condition and am good shape and on the other hand I had to make some improvements (to) my technique,” he told reporters.
The skier in form is Thomas Diethart, 21, who unexpectedly won the prestigious Four Hills tournament over the New Year. He is joined by Michael Hayboeck, 22, who put in by far the best performance of anyone during Thursday night’s training session.
“I put in three great jumps yesterday ... I am very happy it went so well,” said Hayboeck.
Diethart was one of the better jumpers on Friday during the second round of training.
At their opening news conference ahead of the 2010 Games the Austrians were in a highly confident mood but ended with only the team gold. Schlierenzauer, tipped to win both the normal and large hills, came third in both events.
Despite the obvious challenges this time round, team coach Alexander Pointner said he was happy.
“We are a very good team, we have four athletes and each one of them is capable of winning a medal. I’m glad to have this team and not another team,” he said.
Editing by Peter Rutherford