SÃLDEN, Austria (AP) – Ski greats Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal have spoken fluently throughout their careers. The current champion of the general classification of the World Cup, Alexis Pinturault, has been taking courses for two years. And Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia has just started to learn it too.
German has become the common language of ski racing.
Whether they come from the United States, Norway, France or Italy, an increasing number of World Cup skiers are learning German – for a variety of reasons.
Some learned the basics of the language at school, like Svindal. However, the two-time Norwegian Olympic champion and two-time overall World Cup champion only really started talking about it at the very beginning of his skiing career.
âWhen I started traveling I tried to learn German. To be fair, the Alps are the original domain of skiing. And in the Alps, we speak mostly German, but also Italian and French, “said Svindal on Friday in SÃ¶lden, where the World Cup season begins this weekend.
âThen I had a technician who spoke English, but preferred German,â Svindal said.
Besides the practical reason, the Norwegian also had an emotional motivation to speak German.
âYou are learning the language because you don’t want to give the Austrians the home advantage. I also tried to feel at home. I would have liked to learn Italian and French too, but I never did. I tried Italian for a while, but couldn’t, âSvindal said.
In a sport with deep roots in Central Europe, German is an obvious choice for communication. It is the main language in Germany, Austria, the province of northwestern Italy and eastern Switzerland, a region where ski racing has traditionally been one of the most popular sports.
Many high-level ski coaches and technicians, who prepare the skis for training and races, are from this region, which hosts a large part of the World Cup races each year.
âOur sport is really important in places where German is (spoken),â Pinturault said. âIn addition, in Slovenia, Croatia and a little in the Czech Republic, they can speak German. And that’s something really important in our sport.
The Frenchman took German courses for two years.
âIt was really important, also because I never learned German at school, so just for the basics, especially with my soldier. And in my team, I have a few Austrians, so I can speak with them in German, âsaid Pinturault.
In a press conference ahead of the start of his title defense this weekend, Pinturault gave three TV interviews in 10 minutes: the first in French, the next in English and the last in German.
“It’s not perfect yet, I have to improve myself, especially in German,” he said. âSometimes a word comes up in English when I speak German. “
Learning German is not always a skier’s preference.
While many members of the Italian ski team are from South Tyrol and speak it as their mother tongue, Goggia has to learn it from scratch.
“Ein bisschen,” which means “a little,” Goggia said when asked about his knowledge of German.
It’s her helmet sponsor, an Austrian energy drink company, who wants her to learn the language.
âWhen you are a Red Bull athlete you have to speak German,â said the Italian.
Yet there are World Cup skiers who refrain from learning German, like Petra Vlhova.
âNo, I had it in my school, but I don’t know anything. Sorry for the Germans, but I don’t like the language too much, âsaid the overall women’s champion from Slovakia, who speaks English.
And while she is currently learning another language, it is not German.
âI’m trying to learn Italian because I have a lot of Italian people in my team. “
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