- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

VIENNA (AP) - Austria is sending 130 athletes to the Sochi Olympics, by far its largest ever team for the Winter Games.

The Austrian Olympic Committee nominated 89 men and 41 women on Monday, 25 more than for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, the only other time more than 100 Austrian athletes took part.

“If we end up between the 16 medals we won in Vancouver and the 23 medals from Turin, it would be a huge success,” AOC President Karl Stoss said.

AOC named Alpine skier Benjamin Raich as the country’s flagbearer for the opening ceremony, though vice president Peter Schroecksnadel said AOC first considered choosing three-time Olympic ski jump champion Thomas Morgenstern, who is recovering from a ski flying crash.

“Judged by results Thomas Morgenstern would be the No. 1 on our list,” Schroecksnadel said. “But he will need as much rest as possible before the qualification (of the normal-hill competition) on Feb. 8. That’s why we unanimously choose Benjamin Raich.”

Raich, who won gold in slalom and giant slalom in 2006, said he was “surprised. I heard it on the radio. I hadn’t given this any thoughts but it’s a real honor.”

For the first time since 2002, Austria is sending a hockey team to the Olympics, and the country will also be well represented in the new freestyle ski and snowboard disciplines.

Prominent athletes missing from the team include Alpine skier Andrea Fischbacher, who won the women’s super-G in 2010, and ski jumper Wolfgang Loitzl, who was part of the Austrian team that won gold in Vancouver.

Nordic combined athlete Mario Stecher will compete in his sixth Olympics to become the 19th Austrian who achieves the feat.

Stecher is also one of five athletes on the team who have won at least two gold medals. The others are Morgenstern, Raich, ski jumper Andreas Kofler and luge brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger.

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