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Hermann Maier

The Herminator's horrific spill in 1998

by Gerry Brown
Herman Maier after winning the Super G at Nagano, 1998

Hermann Maier after winning the Super G at Nagano, 1998

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He's dead.

That was what came to mind after Hermann Maier's spectacular crash in Nagano.

It was easily the worst wipeout on skis seen since Yugoslavian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj tumbled off the ramp at the 1970 International Ski Flying Championships and into the collective consciousness of American sports fans as "the agony of defeat guy" seen on ABC's Wide World of Sports opening sequence.

Austria's Maier, affectionately nicknamed "Das Monster" and "the Herminator" by his fans, was the best skier in the world at the time and a heavy gold-medal favorite.

He tried to turn left on an icy bend during his downhill run at the 1998 Winter Games, but his skis didn't catch the snow and his body flew off the course at over 70 mph.

The high winds, which had forced the course to be altered before the race, carried him into the air like a plastic grocery bag.

He hurtled through the air horizontally before turning into a freak-show tumble, and was finally caught by some orange safety nets after traveling more than 50 yards.

He had to be dead.

"I was very fast and there was a lot of wind from the back side," he said afterward. "And I went up in the air and was looking at the sky. I looked down at the snow and waited for the crash."

The Austrian downhiller not only survived the wreck, but he got up and walked off the course. In fact, he was fine. The only things hurting were his shoulder and knee.

In the days following, the Herminator proved his toughness by coming back to compete after what could have easily been a life-ending, or at least career-ending, wreck. Just 24 hours later he was back on the slopes, competing against the best in the world.

Incredibly, considering his sprained knee and the fresh memories of his nightmare crash, Maier dominated, winning gold medals in the super G and giant slalom.

It was obvious why the man was called "Das Monster." He couldn't be killed.



More about the 2010 Winter Olympics

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