Hermann Maier : "The Herminator"
After Franz Klammer′s shape slowly withered in the mid-1980ies, the Austrian national skiing team continued its traditionally strong performance. However, for several years it lacked somebody worth lining up with legends like Hannes Schneider, Toni Sailer, Karl Schranz or the mentioned Franz Klammer. In short: There was no Austrian skier worth a silly nickname such as "Blitz of Kitz", "Kaiser" or "King of Mount Arlberg". A change was eventually nearing in 1996, when 24-year-old Hermann Maier from Flachau in Salzburg won a few races including some of the World Cup series.
The following year was the year of Hermann Maier: He won the World Cup, a reputation for being unbeatable and a silly name: "Herminator", a reference to the unbreakable Terminator played by his fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger. He earned his nickname with a terrible fall at a downhill race during the Olympic Games in Nagano, featuring on all major TV stations worldwide. When Maier was asked what he had thought during the fall (he shot over the ground over many metres - and several seconds - before he hit the slope again), he responded: "If I survive this, I′ll be immortal!"
Indeed, the Herminator was unharmed and went off to win slalom and giant slalom. In the season of 1999, Maier won the World Cup for downhill, super-g and giant slalom. He broke Franz Klammer′s record of 27 World Cup victories and overshadowed a National Skiing Team that was the strongest that Austria had ever seen. In this year, World Cup races in which Austrians won the top four or five positions were not unusual, but the Herminator took the lead in both the races and popularity. He became over-all world champion in 1999/2000 as well as 2000/2001.
Downfall and Comeback to Skiing
At the peak of his career, Herman Maier overtook a German car at a crossing with his motorcycle and had a serious accident. Surgeons struggled for seven hours before they could save his Maier′s legs. The fact that a professional skier should rather avoid dangerous sports outside of his job didn′t impress anyone in Austria, nor that the accident had been Maier's fault (as a court decided later on). Of all nationalities, the driver of the overtaken cars had to be German - not a very popular German, though…
During those days, the media and the general public was wondering whether Maier would be able to walk ever again. To everybody′s surprise, Maier started to train again only months after the terrible accident and in 2002, he returned to attend World Cup races. In January of 2003, he achieved his first World Cup victory after the accident in Kitzbühel. Several more followed and in 2003, Hermann Maier became over-all world champion again. In 2004, he was awarded the "Laureus World Sports Award" for the "Comeback of the Year". The hype around Maier as a person peaked for the second time after 1999. Omni-present in Austrian media and advertisements, his sponsors and contractors made him a wealthy man.
So far, Maier has won a total of 53 World Cup races (23 super-G, 15 downhill, 14 giant slaloms and one combination) and became first, second or third for an impressive 93 times. This makes him the second-most successful skier in the history of the World Cup (after Ingemar Stenmark). In the season of 2006/2007, Herman Maier did not win a World Cup race for the first time since 1998. This might well indicate that his career is increasingly developing away from the slopes and towards another route.
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