I can remember being so excited the day that Thomas Grandi had his first podium, 1997 Park City Utah, it was overcast, and extremely rutty. The coarse was super sketchy in the 2nd run, his split times were looking good, I just hoped that he could hold on and finish. Thomas held on that day for third, but what stood out was the emergence of Herman Maier. Herman’s second run was a step above the rest of the field, he skied straight through the ruts on an impossible line and won the race beating Grandi by over two seconds.
Downhill in Nagano
Over the next four years Hermann dominated Alpine Skiing in a way that would have you look outside the sport for a comparison – Tiger Woods comes to mind. Hermann put together multiple 10+ win seasons, even scoring world cup points in Slalom. The 2000-01 season was his best yet, the question changed from “who won?”, to “who came second?” Perhaps his most interesting victory in 2001 was the Snapple Superstars Challenge that ABC put on in Jamaica. Hermann schooled Tiki Barber (NFL running-back) in the final to win the multiskill challenge showing the world that the sport of Alpine Skiing produces top conditioned athletes.
It was in the summer of 2001, where tragically Hermann was bested. A crash on his motorcycle severe enough to threaten not just his ski career, but also his ability to keep his leg, and even his life. Hermann’s leg was mangled, although he was able to avoid amputation it was unlikely that he would ever return to ski racing. In 2002 there was a noticable void on the world cup, Eberhart the perennial bridesmaid got his day in the sun, but to all who watched these victories were denoted with an asterisks. *Hermann missing.
In less than two years from the accident Herman returned to the world cup, with a heavily modified boot that encased an orange sized protrusion from his shin, a reminder of how close he was to losing his entire right leg. Two weeks after his return on his home course he was back on top winning the Flachau Super G.
It was remarkable to see a recovery that was more reminiscent of a scene from the futuristic scifi film franchise that gave rise to his nickname the Hermannator than a recovery by a human. In 2004 he won another overall worldcup title and the 2005 season he had wins in GS, Super G, and Downhill. Post accident Hermann was never the same, and although he wasn’t able to dominate the sport, he did remind us of past brilliance with his 2005 Super G win at Kitzbuehel.
It was sad looking at the results from Soelden a couple of weeks ago, reality set in, we will no longer get to wait for Hermann to ski before the winner is decided.