Even for the Austrians, you’re a long shot when you chase the Herminator | VailDaily.com

Even for the Austrians, you’re a long shot when you chase the Herminator

Ryan Slabaugh

It was early November. And Hermann Maier was still a long shot at ever returning to the sport.

I had a few preconceived notions about Eberharter, who had long-since been labeled in Austria as a failure. Tough. Harsh. Cocky. But that all passed when I sat next to him and watched it dump two-feet of snow, and he mumbled to himself: “This is such a horny sport.”

He seemed cool, well, as cool as an Austrian ski racer can be. They tend to be a bit high strung. But Eberharter didn’t seem to be a failure. He lounged in his chair, barely shaven, a few months after he won the 2002 World Cup overall, and a few months before he won the 2003 prize. But that asterisk still chased him around like a shadow because Maier missed those two seasons with his horrible leg injury.

But without Maier in the running, the World Cup itself had an asterisk. Eberharter mentioned that he was tired of the questions about Hermann, and he was tired of hearing that whatever he did – win four events in a row and dominate (DOMINATE) the World Cup points standings – he was still second best.

And he was older that Maier. Probably wiser, too. He understood that whatever he did – hell, if he became the first to ski on the dark side of the moon – there’d be the question always lingering … Where’s Hermann?

But this year, it could change. Among the hoopla circulating about Hermann vs. Bode for the overall, Eberharter has moved into second place in the overall, just 42 points behind Hermann, with two events remaining.

Eberharter, who’s said repeatedly he’s thinking of retiring after this season, would no doubt call it quits if he could do the one thing he’s never been able to accomplish. If, after this week’s tech events at the World Championships pass, he stands on top of the World Cup overall, the doubters would have no more asterisk.

While Bode, no doubt, is the favorite in the tech events, it’s not out of the question that Eberharter could finally rid himself of that long-time shadow. Bode, too, would shake a few demons. Bad crashes. Dry spells without points in the season. And that’s what so special about the World Cup overall. It’s 25 weeks of racing in a different country, on different slopes, in a combination of two-minute sprints that culminate into one final run. And that run is Saturday’s giant slalom in Italy, where shadows can be shaken and legends, finally, can be resurrected from myth.

Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at rslabaugh@summitdaily.com

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