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The Herminator Wins in Bormio
Men's Downhill: Bormio, Italy
December 29, 1998

Hermann Maier Hermann Maier (AUT)
Austria's Hermann Maier won his first downhill of the season in Bormio, Italy, where he had celebrated his very first success in that specialty a year ago.

It's the fourth victory for the defending overall World Cup champion since the season's opening at Sölden, Austria, last October. Charging down the course with his usual determination, the "Herminator" clocked an unbeatable time of 1.54.51, more than half a second faster than his second-place teammate Fritz Strobl. Stefan Eberharter, two-time winner earlier this winter in giant slalom and in super-G, reached his first downhill podium of the season with a delay of 1.28 seconds for 3rd place.

"Downhill is a dangerous event and I have learned from my crash at Nagano. I think more about what I'm doing now. I feel able to win more downhills in future..."
— Hermann Maier
Once more, the Austrian skiers crushed their rivals in this last men's race of 1999: six of them finished ahead of the standings. Only two Swiss, the 1997 World Champion Bruno Kernen and Didier Cuche, winner last January in Kitzbuhel, were able to break into the top-10.

Italy's Kristian Ghedina, winner ten days ago at Val Gardena, finished a far 19th at 3.45 seconds. Many skiers crashed, such as Frenchman Nicolas Burtin, who injured his right knee. His teammate Antoine Deneriaz, 4th at Val d'Isère, reached a promising 15th place. Americans Daron Rahlves and Chad Fleischer placed came 20th and 24th respectively.

This 15th World Cup victory is definitely a remarkable one for Maier, a double Olympic champion in Nagano last year, who had set the fastest training time on Monday afternoon. However, he improved it by 1.69 after an aggressive yet controlled run down the treacherous "Stelvio" course.

"I was pretty nervous before my start because I was not sure that I could repeat such a great run," Maier said at the finish line. "It's a nice feeling to be fast in training; it's good for your confidence. At least you know that your skis are running well and that the course suits you."

"But in the same time, I was under more pressure than usual because I was hoping to win my first downhill here," he added. "I started smoothly in the first turns since I wanted to focus on the most demanding intermediate part. There is a tough traverse, an icy turn and a long jump in this part which require much concentration because you have to take great risks to remain on the fastest line. I was exhausted at the end , but it was worth it.

"I feel quite confident in downhill this year because I am more experienced than last winter. I don't take unnecessary risks anymore in the turns. Downhill is a dangerous event and I have learned from my crash at Nagano. I think more about what I'm doing now. I feel able to win more downhills in future. "I'm more than satisfied by my season start— four wins in three events are perfect for me so far. My main goal is to remain in good health in January. I plan to compete in all the major events before the World Championships, but I may skip some races if I'm tired or sick as last year when I had strong pain at my shin bones. Vail is my main goal this season because it will be my first participation at World Championships... I want to fight for more gold in February."

But Maier is also motivated to remain unbeaten in Austria during the coming races in Schladming and Flachau, where he skied as a forerunner in January 1996.

"So many things happened to me since that race— it changed my whole life," he said. "A dream came through for me after I clocked excellent times as a forerunner in that event. I entered the national team a few weeks later and I scored my first World Cup points in March 1996 during the finals at Lillehammer."

And Maier looks more relaxed and confident than ever. "I'm having a great life so far - there is nothing more exciting than to be a ski racer. I'm proud to be able to confirm my last season." With this new success, Maier reinforced his position in the overall World Cup standings. He leads now with 640 points, 103 more than Norway's Lasse Kjus who didn't compete today.

Stephan Eberharter, a strong 3rd place at this downhill, clinched his first podium finish in downhill since placing 3rd at Vail in December 1997. Eberharter is now third in the overall standings with 513 points. In the downhill standings, Kjus is still ahead with 280 points, 70 more than Maier. Five more Austrian are also classified among the top-10 including Fritz Strobl, who celebrated a kind of comeback in Bormio. The tall policeman from southern Austria crashed here twice last season while cruising with the best intermediate times and did not recover his confidence until the end of the season. Strobl, 3rd in the Super-G in Innsbruck last week, he aims now for his first win since 1997.

The men's World Cup tour will resume in January in Slovenia's Kranjska Gora where a giant slalom and a slalom are scheduled on 5th and 6th.

—Mountain Zone European Correspondent

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