WENGEN, Switzerland (AP) — Austrian skier Benjamin Raich will miss the super-combined at the Sochi Olympics unless the sport's ruling body makes an exception and lets the 2006 two-time gold medalist compete despite having failed to qualify.
The Austrian ski team said Wednesday it will ask the International Ski Federation for the exception for Raich on medical grounds. Persistent back problems have forced Raich to pull out of Friday's World Cup super-combined in Wengen — his last chance of meeting the Olympic qualifying criteria set by FIS.
"It was a very tough decision but it would be useless (to start)," Raich said. Competitors need at least three World Cup downhill results since 2012 to be allowed to start, but Raich has just two — at Lake Louise in 2012 and at the Wengen super-combined last year.
Raich also raced the downhill portion of the super-combined at last year's world championships in Schladming, but that doesn't count as an official result as he failed to finish the following slalom run.
"Unfortunately, he is not able to get a super-combined start," Austria men's head coach Mathias Berthold told The Associated Press. "He actually had three downhill results but one didn't count ... That's the problem we have."
The Austrian ski federation had already anticipated the issue and organized a national super-combined championship earlier this month. However, Raich had to skip that event as well because of his injury.
Raich, who is expected to start in slalom and giant slalom in Sochi, won Olympic bronze in both combined and slalom in 2002, and gold in GS and slalom four years later. Even if Raich were allowed to start, it's unclear whether he would be fit enough to compete in the Olympic super-combined on Feb. 14.
"You can't tell," Berthold said. "He is trying to get his body as much rest as possible and get physiotherapy in." According to the head coach, Raich has been suffering from back problems for three weeks now.
"He's not very good actually," Berthold said. "It started just between Christmas and New Year and ever since he is struggling with his back and can't train." Raich, who has won 36 World Cup races and was the 2006 overall champion, said he was still hopeful of starting Sunday's slalom at Wengen.
"I will focus on my rehab the next couple of days," Raich said. "I hope to be able to start Sunday free of pain."