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The Herminator's Third Win
Men's Super-G: Schladming, AUT
January 9, 1999

  • Men's Slalom: A star is born
  • Men's Giant Slalom: Raich's second victory

    Hermann Maier Once again he's The Man, Hermann Maier (AUT)
    Four days after finishing at a far 20th place in the giant slalom race at Kranjska Gora, "The Herminator" came back to celebrate his third win on the demanding "Planai" course in Schladming. The double Olympic champion, unbeaten in Austria since last year, won his eighth World Cup Super-G in his career after a rather controlled run down the steep slope on which he won two Super-G races last winter. In fact he beat his teammate Rainer Salzgeber by "only" 58/100 and Hans Knauss by 77/100.

    Switzerland's Paul Accola, the 1992 overall World Cup winner, reached his best placing in this event since 1992 with a 4th in front of two more Austrian skiers, Josef and Fritz Strobl. Christian Mayer, who suffers from an upset stomach, didn't start in that race. Norway's Lasse Kjus, one of the fastest in the upper part of the course crashed in the middle of his run but was not injured. Stephan Eberharter missed a gate in the upper part.

    Now the most difficult challenge facing the defending overall World Cup champion is his home race at Flachau where he will try to win his first giant slalom since his earlier success in Sölden in October. Canada's Vincent Lavoie was the best North American in 25th place. Paul Casey Puckett and Daron Rahlves finished tied at the 34th place.

    Paul Accola Paul Accola (SUI)
    It was a gutsy 5th season victory for Maier who didn't dominate the competition as a year ago when he won twice in a row with over a second advance. In fact, the Olympic champion wearing as usual bib #8 was anxious at the finish area after his run. "I skied fine in the lower icy section but I didn't feel well at the beginning," he said. "I was not as concentrated as usual because I came late in the start house. I lost time to find a place to change myself in a quiet place. There were also many kids who were blocking me to get autographs. I was really lucky to make it in time. The race was more demanding last year. This time the course was not as slick and the visibility better too.

    "I wanted badly to win this great race. I'm more driven when I compete in my country in front of such a crowd who came to see me winning. I think it even helped me today. There is a great pressure on me now and it's tough to find always more motivation to keep on winning. It will be especially hard tomorrow at home. I don't feel comfortable in giant slalom in this moment, especially on smooth courses. We have trained a lot on icy slopes lately and I'm not as dynamic as at the season start."

    In finishing on the podium for the first time on the season in the last Super-G prior the Ski World Championships, both Salzgeber and Knauss may have saved their spot in the national selection for Vail. Rainer, 4th in Aspen in late November, crashed in the finish area and disappeared for a while under the protective inflatable mattresses. He had to been rescued by members of the organizing committee.

    "I was totally exhausted in the last section because of my sickness and I had no more energy to remain on my legs at the end," he said. "I was close to renounce to compete because I felt so weak but then I changed my mind. It was for sure a good idea. I also want to travel with my friend Anita Wachter to Vail."

    At the 1993 Ski World Championships in Morioka, both clinched a silver medal on the same day in giant slalom. In February, Wachter will be a top favorites in the GS race which will take place on the day of her 32nd anniversary.

    Hans Knauss achieved a kind of dream in reaching the podium in his home race. Last year he couldn't make the top-10 here. "It's a special feeling to compete in front of all these people on your home run," said the Olympic silver medal winner from Nagano. "It was my only chance to race in that specialty in Vail. I hope to win it in future. In this moment, Maier is too strong."

    The next competition in Flachau will definitely be a highlight of the season - the world elite will try to beat the local hero who will have a hard time to remain undefeated in Austria. Among the favorites are Switzerland's Michael von Gruenigen, Italy's Patrick Holzer, Benjamin Raich, Hans Knauss and Lasse Kjus.

    Mountain Zone European Ski Correspondent

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