Ready to go

German ski star Linus Straßer talks about the secret of a slalom racer’s success.


Thanks to consistent top results this season, Linus Straßer is one of the extended group of favorites at the 2023 Alpine Ski World Championships in Courchevel/Méribel. After an intense January as usual with five slalom races in Garmisch, Adelboden, Wengen, Kitzbühel and Schladming, the Munich native regenerated at home with his family before traveling via Sestriere to France.


Just in time for the World Championships, we talked to Linus: about the power of mental strength, about decisive hundredths – and about what true success in life means to him.

»You have to stand up there and think to yourself, no matter what slope will come ... I'm ready and I'm going to do the right thing.«

Linus, what predominates: the look forward to the World Championship races or the tension because there are concrete chances of winning a medal?

First and foremost, I'm looking forward to it. First the team event, one day later the parallel competition, and finally the special slalom. That's a nice tension curve. The chances of a medal are good. But they are also good for others, the performance density is enormously high. I simply try to deliver my performance. The results list at the end will show what this is worth.


A slalom run consists of a good 60 gates and is always set differently. How exactly do you have such a run in mind?

"Totally exact. That way I can run through it several times in my mind before the actual run. That gives you confidence. When I'm racing, though, I'm not focused on going along with the run in my head. The brain would be much too slow and would probably be more likely to follow behind. I'm focused on the key sections, of course; maybe there's a sharp turn where I have to allow a little room to maneuver, or a special transition into a steep section. But in general, I'm completely in the moment and on the slope."

The second run in the slalom will be set by your coach. Is that supposed to be an advantage?

"People keep saying that this could be an advantage. But to be honest, I prefer it not to be taken into account at all. The best thing is to stand at the top and think: Whatever slope, whatever course setting, whatever snow conditions are ahead ... anything can come. Because I am convinced that I stand well on the ski and will do the right thing."


»You have to be in the mental shape to accept mistakes and feel the security to be allowed to fail.«

Many slalom racers show one good run. But two good runs are the decisive factor. Is that a matter of mind or skill?

"I think the head is the deciding factor. Some people are perhaps born that way. Runners like Henrik Kristoffersen make an extremely strong mental impression on me. It's really impressive how well he performs under pressure. For me personally, it was a long way, but also a beautiful way that I wouldn't want to miss, because it has put me in the condition to be able to deliver my best performance under positive tension."

How do you manage to be ready on the spot?

"In the summer, I met Ted Ligety at a wedding. We talked for a long time, also about how he used to feel mentally in his best days, when he was world champion five times. Ted said that you don't always have to surpass yourself. Instead, you just have to bring your existing strength, the performance you deliver in training, into the race. Sounds trivial, but it's elementary: You have to know that you can do it. And deliver that when it counts."

Only centimeters separate victory and failure in the slalom. How do you avoid mistakes and still ski at the limit?

"Mistakes are part of the game. It happens to many, and it happens often. If you race with the feeling of actively avoiding mistakes, you won't go to the limit and won't have enough speed. You have to be in the mental state to allow mistakes. And you have to have the confidence to be allowed to fail sometimes. That's why I'm also happy about a sixth place like last time in Chamonix. Those were good runs and a good result. Maybe not everyone perceives it as such: But it gives me the confidence to be ready."

»If you don't want to take advantage of the hundredths of a second, you simply have to go faster.«

Can you remember a moment when it was clear to you: Now I'm ready to compete for the podium in every race?

"In Madonna di Campiglio in December I wanted to secure a good result. That's important at the start of a season. I stepped on the gas, finished third, but was not at the absolute limit and still only 18 hundredths behind the winner Daniel Yule. That was a good feeling: I knew I had the form and the ability to compete for victory in the next races."

What happened in Garmisch when you dropped out in second place after the first run?

"I wanted to win here and took a full risk. In retrospect, it hurt to fail. But it was still the right thing to do. I raced with a lot of heart, challenged the others, who in turn challenged me. That's what really counts in sport: an open, fair competition that everyone enjoys."

And what if it's down to a hundredth at the end? Is that still fun?

"It depends on which side you're on! In Adelboden I finish third, one hundredth ahead of Loïc Meillard and Alex Vinatzer, who both finish fourth. You celebrate your third place and don't really look back. In Kitzbühel, on the other hand, I end up in fourth place instead of second because of two hundredths. It will always even out in the end. And if you don't want to take advantage of the hundredths of a second, you simply have to go faster."

»It's not about the goals themselves: it's about the actions and emotions that got you there.«

People always talk about successes and results in sports. What aim would you like to achieve for yourself as a personality?

"My first World Cup win in the special slalom in Zagreb was an eye-opener. Skiing as a competitive sport is similar to normal life, only a bit more fast-paced: You set goals and work towards achieving them. You want to get better, change your life. Once you've achieved a goal, it's a wonderful feeling, but in the same moment, it's done ... and kind of over. What gives you lasting satisfaction at the end of the day is not the achieved goal, but the way to get there. When you look back at the depths you've been in mentally and athletically, how you've struggled, how you've believed in yourself, how you've progressed. That's the real success. It's nice to achieve your goals. But of true importance are the actions and emotions that got you there."

You got married in 2022, became a father in December. Are you a different person now?

"It puts a lot of things into perspective. When I failed in Garmisch, I took my wife and our daughter in my arms after the race. The little girl smiles at me, and she doesn't care at all how I skied before, whether I won or not. That is a wonderful feeling."

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