German athletes had high expectations as they took off for the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Germany wants to be in the top three on the medals table. Meanwhile, kidnap threats have been made against two Austrian athletes.
Current alpine ski World Cup leader Maria Hoefl-Reisch (pictured left) is going for gold, in what the 29-year-old says will be her final Olympics.
"I am relieved it is now finally starting. I want to take the self-confidence and positive swing to the Olympics," she said on Tuesday, before boarding a plane to Sochi with the majority of Team Germany.
The group of 30 athletes, together with 50 officials and attendants, were farewelled at Frankfurt airport, with the youngest amongst them 15-year-old Short Track speed skater Anna Seidel.
The first German athletes arrived in the Russian alpine resort on Thursday and Germany will be represented by 153 sportspeople in total. They will be looking to repeat the country's performance in the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, where the team picked up 30 medals.
Meanwhile, two members of the Austrian Olympic team have been threatened with kidnapping.
The Vienna office of the Austrian Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that it had on Monday received an anonymous letter from Russia containing threats to kidnap skeleton pilot Janine Flock and Alpine Skier Marlies Schild during the Sochi games.
"We have immediately alerted the Federal Criminal Agency, which is investigating the case," AOC President Peter Mennel said, adding that he had discussed the matter with Flock en route to Sochi on Tuesday.
"She is not worried, she trusts in our security measures," Mennel said. Schild is scheduled to travel to Russia next week.
The security and human rights situation in Russia has been in the spotlight in the lead-up to the games, which will be held between February 7 and 23.
se/kms (sid, dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)