Maier, Hermann

Maier, Hermann
▪ 1999

      Just two years after leaving his job as a bricklayer to join the Austrian national ski team, Hermann Maier stormed into the Winter Olympic Games in February 1998 at Nagano, Japan. His astonishing rise to the heights of his sport, along with the power and size that put him there, had earned him the nicknames "Monster," "Beast," and "Herminator." Despite a harrowing spill that had the potential to inflict a career-threatening injury, Maier stuck with his gutsy, straight-ahead style and emerged from the Olympic Games with two gold medals.

      Maier was born Dec. 7, 1972, in Flachau, Austria. As a child he idolized the great World Cup skiers of the day, including fellow countryman Franz Klammer. His father, also named Hermann, owned a skiing school, and the boy developed superior technique at a young age. Maier was accepted into the Austrian national ski academy at age 15 but was dropped from the program within a year because of knee problems and his small size (50 kg; 110 lb). He took a job as a bricklayer's apprentice and worked as a skiing instructor during the winters.

      In 1995, at the age of 22 and bigger and stronger after seven years of manual labour, Maier quit his job and tried once more to become a World Cup skier. He attracted enough attention on the Europa Cup circuit to earn three World Cup starts late in the 1995-96 season, finishing 11th in a giant slalom competition in Norway. During the 1996-97 season he was hampered by a wrist injury, so it was not until 1997-98, the season leading up to the Nagano Olympics, that Maier was truly a regular on the World Cup circuit, and he took full advantage of his shot at skiing glory. Through January 1998 he had won eight World Cup races—including five straight—and had finished among the top three in 13 of 17 races.

      At Nagano disaster struck when, just 17 seconds after starting his downhill run, Maier crashed and suffered shoulder and knee injuries that forced him out of that race and the following day's slalom competition. Three days later, however, he returned to action and won the gold medal in the supergiant slalom (super G) with a time of 1 min 34.82 sec. Three days after that victory Maier crashed again during his first run in the giant slalom, but he returned for the second run to post a gold-medal-winning time of 2 min 38.51 sec. A week later Maier clinched the overall World Cup title. For the 1998-99 World Cup season, he picked up where he left off, still dominating the sport he almost did not get the chance to try.


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Universalium. 2010.

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