SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — Hannes Reichelt has been ruled out of the Olympics because of a back injury, leaving the Austrian Alpine speed team without its main medal hope in Sochi.
The Austrian ski federation said Monday that Reichelt had to undergo surgery in a sanatorium in Innsbruck for a herniated disk, only two days after winning a World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel, and therefore has to end his season prematurely.
"I am glad I had my back checked today because the consequences (of skiing on) could have been bad for me," said Reichelt, who beat Aksel Lund Svindal and Bode Miller to become the first Austrian in eight years to win the classic Kitzbuehel race.
"The X-ray speaks for itself and surgery is unavoidable," Reichelt said. "Health comes in first place and I want to keep doing sports after my career. Unfortunately my Olympic dream is in shatters."
The 33-year -old Reichelt had been complaining about persistent back problems for weeks. They almost prevented him from starting in Saturday's race but he took medicines to ease the pain.
Austria men's head coach Mathias Berthold called Reichelt's absence in Sochi "a massive blow to all of us." Berthold added Joachim Puchner to his 12-man Olympic team as a replacement for Reichelt.
The Austrian men's ski team failed to win any medal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. For the technical races in Sochi, overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher is a strong favorite, but Austria's hopes for the downhill and the super-G were mainly with Reichelt. He is the only Austrian skier to win a downhill in the past two seasons.