Monday, January 12, 1998
Keep eye on Maier
This past week has been busy for the technical side of the Mackenzie Canadian Alpine Ski Team. I followed Banff's Thomas Grandi to Saalbach, Austria, where we trained together for two days before he raced in Tuesday's World Cup GS, where he skied well and wound up 13th. We then travelled to Schladming and Thomas was skiing well in Thursday night's slalom until a gate hit him square on the chin. It cut him for three stitches and obviously distracted him for the rest of the run.
Nevertheless, he just miss-ed qualifying in the top 30 for a second run by 2/10ths of a second. Stan Hayer from Kimberley was also having a good run until his skis crossed in a rut and sent him flying off the course!
Being the only Canadian men's downhill team member in Europe over the New Year's break, I trained with the Austrians Thursday and Friday. We were able to get on the hill for two hours before it was opened to the public.
It was fantastic training (and much needed for that matter!). All in preparation for the two weekend Super-Gs, which were held on the same hill as the night slalom, only starting much higher up the mountain. The slalom race had more than 30,000 spectators!
The Planai course in Schladming is a very fast and rolling run. The downhill track, which was run on this hill where Dave Irwin (Canmore) won, is rumored to be too fast and will probably not be raced in the future anymore. Critics argue the way the new skis turn, coupled with the ability of today's athletes, would make the course too fast and dangerous.
I think it would be a perfect course and I'm sad that I never got the chance to race it.
Saturday's Super-G course was set almost like a mini-downhill. The coaches have a lot of leeway in the setting of a Super-G course and some like to set very "turny" ones, while other coaches set more downhill-like courses.
The first race course was set by the Swiss downhill coach and was therefore very fast. I'm in the lodge with start No. 24 and all the athletes who have not started yet crowd around the television to watch the newest Austrian phenom, Hermann 'Monster' Maier. take his run. He skied brilliantly and took the lead by more than two seconds.
This guy is the fastest thing to hit ski racing and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. You will certainly be hearing more about him in the weeks to come.
Yesterday, I started in the No. 1 position -- some racers don't like to go down No. 1 because they do not have a very good idea about how some sections on the course will run. The course is set with more turns and is therefore more difficult to negotiate because the hill is just one, long ice wall. I managed to hold on to 12th position on this very demanding course. It's my best result in Super-G this year and it's getting better as we near the Olympics next month.
Tomorrow, the White Circus travels to Wengen, Switzerland. This is one of the true classic courses that has been staging World Cup downhills since the circuit's inception 75 years ago. It has many unique features, including skiing through a railway tunnel roughly half-way down the course.
We've got two downhills scheduled for Wengen ... so stay tuned!