February 17, 2006
SESTRIERE, Italy (AP by Erica Bulman)—Hermann Maier is back in the Italian Alps, happy to have rested at home in Austria for four days but not entirely healthy and not talking with the self-assuredness of Olympics past.
The double Olympic champion traveled to his hometown of Flachau after finishing sixth in Sunday's downhill, hoping the lower altitude would help his nagging sore throat. He also wanted to train for his final two Olympic races, starting with Saturday's super-G.
It's an event Maier won during his last Olympics, in Nagano in 1998, but not one he said Friday he must medal in to be happy.
"It would be nice to get one, said the man once known as the Herminator for his supercompetitiveness, "but not a tragedy if I don't.
Maier returned here late Thursday.
Turin has been enveloped in smog for much of the games and although the air is cleaner in the mountains, Maier said it was not clean enough.
"It was super to go home and rest and recuperate and get away from this horrible air here, full of dust, Maier told reporters Friday. "I am feeling much better, but I am still not 100 percent.
Maier spent Thursday training with Austrian coach Andreas Evers, who will set the course for the super-G. Course setters typically design the run to suit their country's best skiers and are chosen under rules that rotate the job between national coaches.[pagebreak]Health is not the only obstacle for Maier. The super-G starting order also figures to make things harder for him.
The top 30 skiers of the World Cup start list _ rankings which essentially reflect skiers' performances over the last 365 days _ start in reverse order. Maier, who tops the super-G list, will kick out of the hut 30th, meaning he will race on a course already chopped up by 29 other racers.
"Everything is possible but with the start order it isn't so easy, he said. "The wind could affect things, too. I will need to be relaxed.
Strong gusts in the Italian Alps forced the postponement Friday of the downhill stage of the women's Alpine combined.
A simple sore throat wouldn't prevent Maier from being a medal contender in the super-G, his favorite event. Eight years ago at the Nagano Olympics, Maier soared off the downhill course and over two safety fences then came back 72 hours after the crash to win the super-G.
He won a second gold in the giant slalom _ which will be his final event at these games on Monday.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press