After her last five training shots in the snow-covered Antholz Biathlon Arena, Franziska Preuss joked with assistant trainer Sverre Olsbu Röiseland. “Tomorrow I will die,” said the 28-year-old jokingly with a view to the sprint on Thursday (2.30 p.m. / ZDF and Eurosport).

But her first race this year on the 1600 meter high route not far from the Staller Saddle will be really hard work: The altitude takes its toll anyway and for Preuss it is the return to the World Cup after her forced health break.

“It’s going to be tough, I’m preparing for that, but I’m fine so far,” Preuss told the German Press Agency. After the unit, she quickly disappeared into the warm, and the mouth and nose protection was also a must. Because for Preuss it means: Just don’t get sick again, don’t catch anything again.

Three weeks until the home World Cup

The 28-year-old has only just fought back and three weeks before the start of the home World Championships in Oberhof (February 8-19) it is also the last chance for the former relay world champion to gather competition practice. “In terms of form, it’s not perfect yet. But it was much more important to me to be back with the team and to have races in the usual competitive environment with regard to Oberhof. I just see what my body is capable of,” said the Bavarian.

Instead of attacking the top places in the overall World Cup this season, as hoped, Preuss has only been able to contest five of twelve races this season. She missed the season opener in Kontiolahti, as well as the races in Pokljuka and Ruhpolding. Because injuries and illnesses run like a red thread through the career of the ski hunter, who was once considered as talented as Laura Dahlmeier.

Already in the previous season, a foot injury in December and shortly afterwards a corona infection put her out of action for several weeks, so that she again missed many of her goals. She was then compensated in Beijing, where she finally won her first Olympic medal with relay bronze.

body very vulnerable

While exceptional performers like Martin Fourcace or now Johannes Thingnes Bö seem to effortlessly go through an entire season at the top level, their body is simply “very vulnerable, I have to be extremely careful and take every warning signal from the body seriously and react to it,” said Preuss. But all caution was useless, on Boxing Day she was struck down by an infection, “the full program”. “We were very careful at Christmas, I hardly met anyone.”

She couldn’t train for two weeks. “The last two to three weeks have been very frustrating. It’s difficult to accept that and it’s frustrating because you’re at a loss,” Preuss confessed. In the meantime, however, she can handle these situations quite well.

She had to do that in the summer too. Because Preuss was thrown back again by another corona infection at the end of March, later a severe middle ear infection and then also a frontal sinus infection. The result was self-doubt. But the end of a career was not a serious issue. But after the difficult summer for her, a good 70 hours of training were missing, which she can no longer make up for. And now the next forced break.

Goal: Build up competitive toughness

“She should build up her competitive strength again in Antholz. It’s not about setting the bar high with any placement specifications, it’s about getting back into the competitive mode well,” said Felix Bitterling, Sports Director Biathlon. Preuss had achieved the internal World Cup norm with places ten and 15 before Christmas at the World Cup in Le Grand-Bornand.

It remains to be seen how she will react to the height, which is a strain on her body. If she makes it to the top 60 in the sprint, the pursuit is on on Saturday. An assignment in the final season on Sunday could also follow.