Even a year later, Peter Schlickenrieder still gets goosebumps looking at the pictures from Beijing. Winter after winter, failures and tedious development work shaped the everyday life of the team boss of the German cross-country skiers, who received the most wonderful gift out of nowhere on his 52nd birthday: Olympic gold!

The team sprint coup by Victoria Carl and Katharina Hennig, the ARD reporter Jens-Jörg Rieck roaring with the words “Do you have the pan hot?” accompanied, was a milestone for German cross-country skiing. And he should help to bring the sport, which has disappeared into obscurity due to lack of success, back into the limelight.

“Something like this happens once or maybe twice in a lifetime, then all the luck in this world is gone,” said team boss Schlickenrieder, describing the special nature of the event, which celebrated its first anniversary last week. Now Hennig, who has also been able to call herself an individual World Cup winner since the Tour de Ski 2023, and the rest of the team in Planica, Slovenia, are required. After the Olympic doldrums, the World Cup doldrums should also end. The first decisions in the sprint are due on Thursday – still without the great German chances.

Team boss dampens expectations

Schlickenrieder dampens expectations with a view to the entire World Cup, especially with regard to Hennig as his strongest athlete. “The question of whether she will be in top form at the start of the World Cup is difficult. I wouldn’t expect too much from her. Actually, what’s coming now is extra income. The ten-kilometer run in singles is skating, that’s it not their dream discipline,” said the team boss. He would celebrate a World Championship medal for his team as euphorically as the Olympic victory in Beijing. “To achieve success for the first time is one thing. Repeating it is almost the greater achievement. I think it will be difficult,” he said.

The 26-year-old Hennig has recently been struggling with illnesses, but is more than ever in the public eye. “Peu à peu it’s getting better and better. It’s nice to see that hard, consistent training pays off. We’re marching in the right direction step by step,” said Hennig of the German Press Agency. According to her own statement, she has caught the eye of her competitors even more. “You’re just more in the thick of things. My name is mentioned more often. That’s a nice side effect, of course.” She does not want to commit herself to specific medal goals in Slovenia.

Unlike in the World Cup, cross-country skiing at the World Championships is presented on a large stage including TV coverage. But traditional television is just one of several ways for Hennig, Victoria Carl and Co. to advertise themselves. To get more children and young people into cross-country skiing, today’s athletes rely primarily on social media. “It plays a big role how their idols communicate,” says Schlickenrieder.

Contact via Social Media

When the 53-year-old was still active, the Olympic stars from television were out of reach for future cross-country skiing talents – it’s easier now with Facebook and Instagram. The athletes intensively maintain their own social media channels, and the young people can ask questions via direct messages. “That takes a lot of time, you have to find the right balance. But direct contact and the immediate are important for the future of our sport,” said Schlickenrieder.

Another building block of the whole is success. That was the case at the 2022 Olympics for a long time and should – despite all modesty in formulating the World Cup goals – not remain an isolated case.