It is not yet known who will be European Champion Middle Distance tomorrow, but it is certain that Nicola Spirig, Anne Haug, Frederic Funk, Thomas Steger and Giulio Molinari are among the favourites. During the press conference, however, they mostly pointed at each other when asked who they thought would win the race tomorrow.
Haug had already mentioned Spirig as a role model for her already, and she emphasised that again. “I have so much respect for Nicola; someone who has been racing at the highest level for so long. I myself had a short training break, but then went from day to day to prepare for this race as optimally as possible. I am motivated to race here and don’t underestimate anyone. It will be an exciting race and the best will win.”
According to Spirig, that could just be Haug, maybe even more after Haug’s win at CHALLENGEST.PÖLTEN. “I’m actually focusing mainly on the Olympics right now and using this race as really good training. It makes me proud that Anne sees me as a role model, but I think she is the biggest favourite for tomorrow. Still, there will be other good ladies racing as well. Look at Sara Perez Sala, for example, who will surely come out of the water in front of us.”
In the men’s race, many eyes will be on Molinari, as the top Italian athlete has won CHALLENGEKAISERWINKL-WALCHSEE three times before, including once at the European Middle Distance Championships. “I feel good and have been able to train strongly over the past month. I have won here many times, but with these guys (pointing to Funk and Steger) it is undoubtedly going to be a tough and fast race.”
Funk – most recently the winner of CHALLENGEST.PÖLTEN – sees opportunities in any case. “I’m very positive and my last race has of course given me an enormous amount of self-confidence. I grew up near here – just over the border – and know this area well. I feel fine in the mountains and of course I’m going to do everything I can to win again tomorrow.”
Then he will have to win from, among others, Steger, who is also named the “green devil. “But it’s going to be an open race, so let’s wait and see what will happen. I’m coming here to put down a good race, but there are plenty of guys to take into account. Not just the guys here at the press conference, but also, for example, Bart Aernouts and Ruedi Wild.”
At that point it was Molinari calling Steger the biggest favourite for the European title. “Grazi,” Steger said while laughing out loud.