Men's Super-G and Slalom
November 27-29, 1998
Race Preview: Will Hermann Maier be on top?
The two-time Olympic Champion has remained unbeaten for a year now in this specialty, in which he has already celebrated six major wins since his first success in February 1997 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
In December 1997, he won the opening super-G race on the challenging Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, CO (where the next World Championships will take place in two months). Later on, he crushed rivals in two consecutive races in Schladming, Austria and again in Garmisch. But his most memorable victory took place in February during the Winter Olympics in Nagano, where he won his first gold medal only a few days after his horrible crash in the downhill at Nakiska.
"It was for sure my most dramatic and emotional victory" he admitted on Thursday during an interview with ESPN’s Bob Beattie. "Super-G is for me the most thrilling event of all you have to ski so fast and fight so hard without really knowing the course as in a downhill race. You must take more risks than in the other specialties and I like this."
After his mistake in Park City where he straddled a gate in the second run after winning the first, Maier said that he only likes to move at his limits.
"I want to have fun and racing is only exciting when you ski as fast as possible," he said. He described Aspen's course, "Ruthie’s Run," as challenging. He was right. During the free training on Thursday, three racers including Chris Puckett (USA) crashed and got injured.
Beside Switzerland’s Didier Cuche, silver medal winner in Nagano, and Norway’s Kjetil Aamodt, a two-time winner here in 1992 and 1993, Maier’s competition comes from his own teammates. Half a dozen of his colleagues such as Stephan Eberharter, winner last week in Park City; Christian Mayer, the actual leader in the Overall World Cup; Hans Knauss, also a silver medal winner in super-G in Japan and winner of last season’s last race in Norway where Maier didn’t compete; and Josef Strobl are only some of his toughest rivals.
Yet they know that they will need to achieve a perfect run to be able to have a serious chance to beat "The Herminator," whose only rival may well be himself. If he controls his aggressiveness and his skis, he should be able to win his sixth consecutive race in Colorado and be back at the place he likes most: the top.
"It's nice up there even if it's sometimes a little windy," Maier said.
Men's Slalom: Norway's Revenge
The "Attacking Wicking" team, by far the strongest on the tour with its two Olympic Champions (Finn Christian Jagge and Hans Peter Buraas) and its two World Champions (Kjetil Aamodt and Tom Stiansen), is ready to fight back on the demanding "Ruthie’s Run" course after losing to France’s Pierrick Bourgeat in Utah.
The racing conditions are expected to be much better in Aspen than during last weekend's slalom in Park City. The cold night temperatures and the hard work done on the course should allow the racers to compete on a hard slope.
Other World Cup slalom races in Aspen were won by top champions such as America’s Billy Kidd, the 1970 combined World Champion at Val Gardena, Italy; Ingemar Stenmark, the all time greatest World Cup skier with his 86 wins; and the late Rudi Nierlich, the triple World Champion in 1989 and 1991 in giant slalom and slalom.
In Park City, Bourgeat was able to make the best out of poor course conditions to win his first-ever World Cup slalom after finishing second at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, in January. He will try hard today to confirm that success. Some of his teammates such as Sebastien Amiez, the 1996 slalom World Cup champion are ready to imitate him soon.
The Austrians should again be the main contenders of the Norwegians, with 1994 Olympic Champion Thomas Stangassinger and Christian Mayer, who conquered his third (in three different specialties) consecutive spot on a podium Friday .
Jure Kosir from Slovenia, 1994 Olympic bronze medal winner, was second in the first slalom run in Park City and will fight for his second win on the World Cup tour. His first and only success goes back to the slalom in Madonna di Campiglio in December 1993.
The defending slalom World Cup Champion, Thomas Sykora, will not compete in Aspen. He suffers from a knee injury and will rest until the middle of December.
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