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The Thrill—and the Agony—of Ski Racing

The Thrill—and the Agony—of Ski Racing

[ Fri, 2009-12-18 20:56 ]
Maier Crash
The debate about ski racing's safety has heated up. We remember one of the sport's most horrifying crashes: Hermann Maier at the '98 Olympics

After an early season full of some season-ending (and in some cases, life-threatening) crashes on ski racecourses, a big debate has sprung up among racers, spectators and the sport's governing body about how to make ski racing more safe while keeping it satisfying for spectators expecting a thrill. We don't want to make any big pronouncements about the future of ski racing, but we do remember one of the most thrilling -- and most sickening -- moment in recent race history: Hermann Maier flipping over the snow fences at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The Nagano Olympic downhill track had been derided, during a week of weather delays, as a bunny hill unworthy of the world's best skiers. For Maier, at the peak of his dominance, it should have been child's play. But the mild-mannered Alpin Turn had been reconfigured by all the new snow, and when Maier charged it at cruising speed, he was launched pin-wheeling into near-earth orbit. His re-entry was head-first, and after impact, Maier rocketed through ridiculously inadequate safety netting and cartwheels down a rock-strewn face. Dead? Paralyzed? Hardly. The Hermannator rose to his feet, waved, and went on to win the Super G and GS later that week.