Snow Skiing Champion: Hermann Maier
Born in Altenmarkt im Pongau, Salzburg, Austria on December 7, 1972, Maier was introduced to skiing at a young age through his father’s skiing school. He showed great promise with his technique and at the age of 15 he was accepted into the Austrian national ski academy. Due to problems with his knees and his smaller than average size, he was dropped from the program and he returned to Flachau, competingin local races and becoming a regional champion in Tyrol and Salzburg.
In January 1996, he achieved the 12th fastest time in a giant slalom event in Flachau, which brought him to the attention of the coaches of the Austrian World Cup ski team and launched his international competitive ski career. On February 10, 1996, Maier made his World Cup debut at Hinterstoder, Austria, finishing 26th in the giant slalom. In February 1997, he won the World Cup Super-G race in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and in 1998 he won gold medals for both the giant slalom and Super-G at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. What makes his victories even more noteworthy is that they took place only days after he flew off the course of a downhill race and went tumbling head over heels a few times before crashing through two stretches of B-netting, walking away unscathed. The crash and his gold medal achievements brought him to the attention of the sporting world and he made the cover of Sports Illustrated with the byline “Thrills and Spills – The Olympics as You’ve Never Seen Them”.
Maier’s career went from strength to strength and in 2000 he won the World Cup title, as well as the title for downhill, Super-G and giant slalom, setting a record of the most points garnered by an alpine skier in a World Cup title. (His record of 2000 points was broken in 2013 by Tina Maze who scored 2414 points.) In 2001, Maier repeated his World Cup wins and gained silver and bronze medals at the 2001 World Championships held in St Anton.
In August 2001, Maier was in a serious motorcycle accident which required lengthy reconstruction surgery and rehabilitative therapy. However, he returned to international competitive skiing in January 2003, winning the Super-G at Kitzbühel, Austria. His amazing recovery and return to competitive skiing was acknowledged by the 2004 Laureus World Sport Award for the “Comeback of the Year” after he reclaimed both the overall World Cup title and the Super-G title. It’s no wonder that he is sometimes referred to as ‘The Herminator’.
Following several more victories, and having made an indelible mark on the history of the sport of snow skiing, Hermann Maier announced his retirement from competitive skiing in October 2009.