BEHIND-THE-SCENES NOTEBOOK: 52 pick-up for MaierMaier says it’s actually number 52
Hermann Maier won his 51st World Cup race on Sunday, surpassing Alberto Tomba on the all-time victory list. But Maier considers it his 52nd win, because he was once disqualified for a technicality in Val d’Isere, France. Nevertheless, when Ski Racing asked Maier about the record, he was happy to speak glowingly about Tomba. ‘It’s unbelievable, for sure’ said Maier. ‘He was very important for our ski circus.’
Perhaps this means Maier will win the overall title this year, as he has four times in the past. If last year is an indication, he will, because the winners of the opening giant slaloms (Anja Paerson of Sweden and Bode Miller of the United States) went on to take the two crystal globes.
Ligety’s former coach is happy
Adam Chadbourne, who was Ligety’s coach when Ligety first arrived on the U.S. Ski Team, was in the finish area watching the Park City native jump from the 64th starting position to eighth.
‘A new level’ said a beaming Chadbourne. ‘He’s just taking his slalom tactics into GS.’
Chadbourne, who now coaches for Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, brought 47 Burke athletes and nine coaches to Austria to train at Hintertux. He was sky-high after seeing Ligety win the second run.
‘It won’t be long before he wins one of these things’ Chadbourne said. ‘He’s making a shorter arc than anybody up there. It’s unbelievable.’
Ski Racing rode up the gondola with Ligety on the way to second-run inspection. He has been wearing vintage pink and green neon Uvex goggles, and has riveted carbon-fiber pads to his gloves to withstand the impact of the gates he’s clearing. He hasn’t found a headgear sponsor, so he’s still wearing a piece of tape with the words “Mom and Dad” on it. “My agent Ken is working on it,” Ligety said.
Palander was not all there
Kalle Palander had numbness in his right leg on the morning of the race, having done something to his nerves when he tweaked his back. He twisted it in a soccer game on Friday. ‘I can race no problem’ Palander said, ‘but it still feels funny in my leg.
Didier Cuche of Switzerland was emotional in the finish after the second run, disappointed with his performance. After finishing seventh in the morning, he was slow in the afternoon, winding up in 23rd. Back from an ACL injury and carrying the weight of a slumping Swiss ski team, Cuche had to take a minute before speaking with reporters. ‘It’s really hurting’ Cuche said when asked about his knee.
Changes in the Austrian team
Mario Matt is the latest addition to WC4, the elite squad for those Austrians considered contenders for the overall World Cup title. The team-within-the-team was created in 2003 to provide preferential training and race-start opportunities for the most versatile and successful Austrian men. Matt joins Hermann Maier, Benjamin Raich, Michael Walchhofer and Mario Scheiber. Their coach is Andy Evers. Christoph Gruber has been moved off WC4 and onto WC3, which is mostly a giant slalom team, filled with the likes of Rainer Schoenfelder and Hannes Reichelt. Matt, the 2001 slalom world champion, has suffered shoulder injuries in recent years.
The cornerstone of the sport
Men’s giant slalom is one of the toughest categories on the World Cup: Everyone has a dog in this fight. Benjamin Raich just edged Miller to win the discipline title last year (Miller had won it by a hair’s breadth over Finland’s Kalle Palander the year before).
Today’s race was the first of nine giant slaloms scheduled for this season. The other eight will be at Beaver Creek (Dec. 3); Alta Badia, Italy (Dec. 18); Kranjska Gora, Slovenia (Dec. 21); Adelboden, Switzerland (Jan. 7); Yongpyong, South Korea (two races, March 4 and 5); and Are, Sweden (at Finals, March 17)
Miller film set to premiere in Banff
Seven years in the making, a documentary film about Bode Miller’s life is set to premiere on Nov. 4 at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Directed by Bill Rogers, who runs the nonprofit Coruway Film Institute, the movie is an intimate look at Miller’s career from 1998, when he started near the back in World Cups, to 2005, when he won the overall World Cup title. ‘I haven’t seen it yet’ said Miller after Sunday’s race in Soelden. ‘Have you?’ In fact, the film will be discussed in the pages of Ski Racing’s next issue, due out soon.
What to look for next
Now that we’ve had one race, it’s time for the World Cup to take a break for a month. The men won’t race again until Nov. 26-27, when the first speed races of the season take place at Lake Louise, Alberta. Meanwhile the women won’t race again until Dec. 2-4 at Lake Louise, Alberta. Between now and then, many of the World Cup skiers are expected to travel to North America, where they traditionally train on new snow at high altitude in Alberta, British Columbia and Colorado, and often compete in FIS races and NorAms.