Germany – B+
I would classify ze Germans season as solid, but mostly dead boring. Their were few interesting or unexpected highlights. They cruised to 6th on the Nations Cup rankings, ahead of their arch-rivals the French, but at the back of the ‘red group’ skiing nations (Norway, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Italy – you can argue that these are not the ‘red group’, but you would be wrong. It’s not personal, it’s just a fact. Sorry.)
For me the most notable German event was the emergence of Tim Tscharnke as a damn good sprinter and his promotion to permanent anchor leg of the German relay in order to avoid the dreaded ‘Northug effect’ was awesome. The Germans are hoping little Timmy has more guts than Axel, and I tend to think it’s the right decision. Likewise Tom Reichelt had a few good races, and surprised some people, because the German distance men are all big names. Rene Sommerfeldt, Axel Teichmann, Tobias Angerer, even Jens Filbrich to some extent are good all around skiers who gain the most points in distance events, and have been the leaders in that department for quite some time. That another distance man can come up from the minors and make a difference is good news.
Again, ze Germans were led by Teichmann and his goofy goatee. Axel racked up 541 WC points, down about 200 from last season. No word on how many points his goatee got, but it could beat Petter Nothug in a sprint finish either, so it doesn’t really matter. For me, Teichmann is hard to watch. I would say he is probably the least exciting skier on the World Cup, and seems to ski with zero emotion, ever. Also, his awkward classic stride makes my back hurt just looking at him. So really, what I am trying to say here is that Axel drove his team’s score down.
Next on ze German depth chart is a surprising Rene Sommerfeldt. Surprising, because Rene looked like he was cooked at the end of the 08-09 season. 2009 closed with Sommerfeldt scoring 97 points, his lowest total since 1998, when he was 25 years old. When you are 35 and your World Cup points go from 829 to 97, it may be an indication that someone should probably stick a fork in you. However, Rene laced up the boots for one more season, and cranked out 459 WC points. He may not have bagged a medal at Whistler, but his season was way above expected, and a good way to go out.
Just below Sommerfeldt was Tobias Angerer, checking in at 412 WC points. I am not really all that clear on Angerer, despite the fact that everyone seems to continuously have him slated down as a top contender after winning back to back overall titles in 2006 and 2007. His standings in the past three seasons (16th, 15th, 14th ) really are not great, and at 33, I really cannot see him making a charge at the overall again. He will remain a solid distance skier with the ability to ski Tour-type events well, but to me he is no longer in the ‘elite’ tier of men. Yes, I know he knocked back an awesome Olympics (7th, 2nd, 4th) but still, his declining number of starts on the World Cup mean it is more and more difficult for him to compete for the overall. Angerer did not disappoint or shock this season; he just existed.
I mentioned Tom Reichelt as a surprise at the outset – the guy managed to put together a very commendable 166 points, barely down from last seasons’ 175, but seeing as I had never heard of him before Christmas of this year when he managed to finish 17th overall in the Tour, he was respectable. Likewise in the youth department, Tim Tscharnke showed up big time, garnering 119 WC points as a 21 year old, and leading the charge in the German sprint revival. I like Tim, if you had not gathered that fact.
On the whole, the Germans are the most boring World Cup team. They are quiet, consistent, except for Teichmann unremarkable individuals. Which, as a writer of semi-witty prose, is quite annoying. But on to the women.
They had an up and down year on the World Cup, with some individual success, but nothing major. On the Nations Cup, they finished 8th, which is not fantastic. Like the men, the squad is aging, but can still ski effectively, if not amazingly. The big surprise by the German women was a fantastic Olympics. The strong World Cup skiing they did up to the Olympics did not contain very many podiums, but the ladies can throw down when need be.
The team was led by veteran Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, who is now 30 years old. While she did score 394 World Cup points to lead squad, she failed to hit the podium at the World Cup level until the Team Sprint at the Olympics (I know, ze Germans won the TS in Rybinsk, but I am pretty sure if I was Evi’s partner for the WC in Rybinsk, we still would have won the field stunk so much). Once she got to Vancouver she found out she actually liked the place, knocking down the Team Sprint win, a 2nd place in the 4-by relay, and 4th in the 30km. Impressive for someone who was having trouble cracking the Top 10 consistently earlier in the year. Also, she is still a babe, for anyone keeping track.
Katrin Zeller was the only one to come close to Evi, scoring 311 WC points in being quietly consistent, which seems to be a trait of Germans. She has been a pretty consistent 15-25th spot skier for a few years now, and seems to be slowly rising into Top 10 contention. Zeller was followed by Claudia Nystad, who at 32 is not yet over the hill, but is maddeningly inconsistent. This year the 190 WC points she collected were a massive drop from the 573 she scored the previous year. This was hurt by a brutal Tour, which started out terrible and did not get any better after she pulled the plug on the 4th race. However, it paid off, as she was able to come home from the Olympics with two relay medals. Nystad may be past her prime, but she can still sprint, which is the most surprising part. Usually old people stink at sprinting, but she has proved that to be wrong. Experience is sexy, just like Claudia Nystad.
Speaking of sexy, I would be remiss if I did not mention Stefanie Boehler. I know, her 183 WC points were a vicious drop from 510 in 08-09, and she only cracked the top 10 individually on the World Cup twice, but damn. I saw her up close and personal at the Olympics, and it was worth every second of feeling like a huge creeper. Not as big of a creeper as the guy with the lens as long as my arm taking millions of pictures, but at least he has some pictures now. I think I blacked out, which is why I didn’t get any.
The one surprise was the biathlete Miriam Goessner, who managed to take down 129 cross country world cup points while still competing as a biathlete. She came 5th in the prologue on the Tour. She was part of the German silver medal relay team. And did I mention she is only 20??
Watch out For: You thought I was going to take the easy way out and pick Goessner. Wrong. I have heard that biathlon is in fact the second most popular sport in Germany behind football, so I believe Goessner will go back to shooting guns and skating. I hear it’s easier. Instead, I will pick my good buddy Phil Marschall. Why would I pick a guy who scored 1 World Cup point and who managed to come 74th and 73rd in the Tour before dropping out?? Well, partly because there is a kid at Nakkertok who has the exact same name, which I thought was awesome, and partly because Phil is 22, and was born 6 days after me. I mean, the fact that he could not qualify for Alpen Cup (whatever the hell that is) sprint heats is disconcerting, but hey, neither can I. And you can’t take all easy picks for next years’ surprise stories, because when Phil destroys everyone next season, I can say I picked him first.