Maier faces 2006 Games with new eyes, many feats |

Maier faces 2006 Games with new eyes, many feats

Shauna Farnell
Preston Utley/Vail DailyAustrian skier Hermann Maier meets the media Tuesday at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek.

BEAVER CREEK – Hermann Maier has been through a lot since his last Winter Olympics. In addition to winning World Cup races – his career total is now 51 victories – and World Championship triumphs, Maier has come close to losing his leg and escaped certain death. Oh yeah, he has also written a book.Growing up in Austria as a skinny kid with knee problems, Maier improved his strength by working as a brick layer before launching into his World Cup career – where he quickly became the standard and namesake of ski-racing perfection and dominance . Hence, “The Herminator”. Some may remember the Winter Olympics of 1998 in Nagano, Japan. Maier had a horrific crash on the downhill course, but bounced back to win the super-G and giant slalom.

In August 2001, Maier didn’t bounce back as quickly following a motorcycle crash. In his recently published book, “The Race of My Life,” he describes how his right leg was left dangling by skin and nerves. After the foreword by Lance Armstrong, Maier leaps right into the scene of his fateful ride on a summer evening in Austria, when a car mistakenly took a left turn into Maier, launching him 60 feet. In his accident, although the physics of crashing on a street were different than those he was accustomed to on the race course where his speed was similar if not greater on skis than on his motorcyle, Maier’s survival instincts kicked in. In his book, Maier recounts how he braced himself for the impact to the extent that he dented his gas tank squeezing his legs together, and pinched off the seat, which ended up still between his legs when he landed far from his motorcycle on an embankment down the road.The book, much like Armstong’s “It’s not About the Bike,” is more a tale of mental toughness and recovery than it is about athleticism.

“It’s more for people that are injured who (when) recovering, have some problems,” Maier said after his downhill training run on Tuesday. “I get emails from people (who ) have learned a lot.”In 2002 Maier was still on the mend, and made himself scarce in the Bahamas during the Olympics in Salt Lake City. The following season, however, he soared back to win his fourth World Cup overall title. The Games this February in Torino, Italy, hold additional value to Maier, who has established and re-established himself.”In ’98, I was in perfect shape,” Maier said. “It was my first full season and every race was the same, World Cup or Olympic Games. (Now), I’ve won a lot of races and the Olympic Games, they are much more for me.”

With every type of medal his sport allows already in hand and history, a book already written and death evaded, Maier is unable to specify particular life goals to check off his list, but he knows he’ll take each gate one turn at a time. And each turn means something.”It was very important for me to write the book,” he said. “There’s a lot of things to do now. There are some turns that are really good. It’s getting better and better. I can feel it.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or, Colorado

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