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Ski legend Hermann Maier slammed the coaches and staff of the underperforming Austrian ski team Monday following incomprehension in this ski-crazed nation over their dismal medal haul.
"It's about time somebody questioned closely the officials and the coaching staff," Maier, a three-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion, wrote in his blog (http://ski-wm.raiffeisen.at/blog/).
"Instead of taking the pressure away from the team, they have increased it with exaggerated expectations," he complained.
"It's too easy to give the athletes all the blame."
Austria went into the two-week world ski championships on home snow, expecting at least half a dozen medals.
But after five races, including the two prestigious downhill events, the ski nation has just one bronze to show for its efforts, in the women's super-combined.
Skiers touted as major contenders, like Hannes Reichelt, Klaus Kroell or Anna Fenninger, came away empty-handed, landing close to the podium but not on it.
"If we are completely honest, except for Anna Fenninger... and (overall World Cup winner) Marcel Hirscher, we have no clear medal contenders," said the 40-year-old Maier, who accumulated four overall World Cup trophies and 10 crystal globes over his career.
The coaches' duty should have been to draw the intense media attention away from the team, to allow the skiers to focus on the races, he argued.
"But I haven't seen or heard much from them during these world championships, except for a wave of self-criticism," he deplored, calling for a re-examination of the training process.
"I would like to see more creativity, that we remember the basics of skiing and... put the joy of skiing at the forefront again."
Austrian media have been scathing about the lack of medals, with headlines screaming "Again nothing!" and front pages competing to show the most tragic pose, with skiers on their knees, in tears or holding their head in their hands.
Ski federation sports director Hans Pum, who initially set the goal at "six to eight medals," was trying to temper expectations halfway through the championships.
"You can't always compare us to the winning skiers or the super teams that we once had... We don't have that at the moment. But we have a strong young team, and great people are coming up," he said.