WRITE A CATCHY HEADER
Winter Olympic Games
Silver medal, Nagano 1998: Super-G
Bronze medal, Åre 2007: Giant Slalom
Gold medal, Val-d’Isère 2009: Super-G
Silver medal, Val-d’Isère 2009: Downhill
Silver medal, Garmisch 2011: Downhill
World Cup victories
4x Downhill World Cup: 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011
1x Super-G World Cup: 2010
1x Giant Slalom World Cup: 2009
Successes. My masterpiece – the Streif (Kitzbühel).
The Streif? This comprises a two-minute test of courage over a good 3.3 kilometers, an athlete's life. Respect, even fear, but also pure adrenaline, happiness, euphoria, and finally relief when you arrive safely at the bottom when the run is over. Skied x times, won the downhill five times and the Super G once, and never crashed.
The first time? I remember it well. Four out of the first five skiers crashed, and three ended up in the hospital. I could hear the blades of the helicopter, unaware of what had happened. I asked myself what I was doing up there, if world-class skiers kept crashing. And a movie played in my head: crashes in every possible place. I almost went crazy before my first practice run. So I just hoped the slope would be kind to me and took off. I finally reached the finish line, but almost eight seconds behind. Nevertheless, I felt like a champion. During the race I was only 4-5 kilometers per hour faster than during training. On the Streif I felt like I was flying.
The challenge? The Streif allows no wiggle room between right and wrong, between a safe arrival at the finish on a flight to the hospital. The first and last 35 seconds of this run are extreme; nothing else pushes you to your limits like this. A split second of carelessness is all it takes, and the track will chew you up.
With five downhill victories – 1998, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 – I am the record holder of the Streif.
My story. My moments.
1998 Kitzbühel/AUT, Downhill – My first World Cup victory; this was on the Streif. My performance here was confirmed the next day, when I finished in second place on the original course behind a certain Christian Ghedina.
1998 Silver medal, Super-G at the Winter Olympics in Nagano – An Olympic medal, after I had just missed winning the medal in the Downhill. This medal was won with a youthful sense of joy. But without really knowing how I did it...
2002 Adelboden/CH, Giant Slalom – My first victory in my World Cup Giant Slalom career, and my "home" in front of an incredible crowd. Also, I won by more than a second, finding myself in the proverbial "zone".
2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City – As the favorite in these games, a ride off the course just a few gates before the finish line (but with the best intermediate time) prevented me from winning the gold.
2006 Winter Olympics in Turin – A chaotic, arduous return from an injury while training for these games, I had reached the low point of my career. I failed to qualify for the Downhill, completed an unsuccessful Super-G, and fought hard for a place in the Giant Slalom.
2007 Bronze medal in Giant Slalom at the World Championships in Are/SWE – After I missed winning two medals in the Downhill by just 6 hundredths of a second altogether, I once again found myself in the Giant Slalom with an unexpected bronze medal around my neck.
2009 Gold medal in Super-G at the World Championships in Val d'Isère/FRA – There was already a smile on my face when I arrived in Val d'Isère the day before the race. At night, under the spotlights, the racecourse overlooking the village was as icy as ever. The whole thing was glistening. After I readied a pair of ski boots which had been specially developed for this kind of icy snow and super-steep terrain, I analyzed the slope during the free run and became familiar with it. The next day I crossed the finish line with a lead of 98 hundredths of a second, and a gold medal soon was around my neck. The feeling of having done my job – and the satisfaction that accompanied it – allowed me to sleep like a baby that night.
2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver – After dominating the practice runs, I skied a race with the Olympic winner-to-be, and it was "neck-and-neck" until the last moment. At the finish line, I was just 36 hundredths of a second too slow to win the gold, and I finished the race quite disappointed with sixth place.
2011 Kitzbühel/AUT, Downhill – The perfect race on the Streif. To me, this fourth Downhill victory will always be my most cherished. A full second lead on the clock made this one extra exciting. And again I had this feeling of being one with the elements and finding myself in the proverbial "zone". This feeling, along with the amazing emotions my success brought with it, are still as vivid in my memory as though it were yesterday.
2011 World Cup Finals in Downhill in Lenzerheide/SUI – At the start of the last run of the season, I was 14 points behind my rival, Michael Walchhofer. A coincidence in the draw the previous day meant that we would start last, right after one another. Just before it was my turn to race, I heard the audience’s standing ovation and interpreted it as an indication of a poor performance by "Michi". Not exactly a fair assessment, as this ovation was meant to congratulate him on his amazing career. Michael Walchhofer retired and left the "white circus".
We had a neck-and-neck race, one worthy of a tense thriller. To win overall, I had to take at least fifth place in this race. And so, my fourth-place finish enabled me to take home a fourth crystal globe in the Downhill, after my wins in 2007, 2008, and 2010.
2012 Kitzbühel/AUT, Downhill – Three days after the announcement of my retirement at the end of the season, I won my fifth victory, equal to the record on the legendary Streif, and thereby "dethroned" the famous Franz Klammer from his title.
The story of my signature move.
At Chuenisbärgli (WC Adelboden), not only did I win my first Giant Slalom, but the Ski Flip was also born there on January 5, 2002. You see, I wanted to kick my ski out of the binding, purely out of joy over my victory. But instead of quickly landing on the ground, it flipped through the air in a somersault and landed in my hand! And that became my Ski Flip.
The story of my obsession.
My sense of perfectionism was a cornerstone of my success. For me, perfectionism is really about reliability. My trainer, along with both of my technicians, worked like this as well – no compromising, 100% or nothing at all. Black or white. Admittedly, this type of attitude could unnerve some people. Meanwhile, my corners became a bit rounder. Nowadays I can feel it when it gets to be too much for my environment. And I have noticed that there are always shades of gray.