Sat, Dec 06, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Maier proves his worth

REUTERS , BEAVER CREEK, COLORADO

Hermann Maier skis to the fastest time in the men's World Cup alpine downhill training run on the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, Colorado, on Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Hermann Maier's comeback faces the ultimate test this weekend as the Herminator prepares to tackle a downhill double-header and super-G on one of the World Cup's most challenging and demanding courses.

With the Val d'Isere downhill moved to Beaver Creek due to a lack of snow, the Austrian double Olympic champion faces three gruelling days of competition.

It will not only test his fitness, but the sturdiness of the right leg that he injured in a life-threatening motorcycle accident two years ago.

Maier has said that because of nerve damage he sustained in the crash he does not feel the terrain the way he use to, and the pounding and extreme forces exerted on his damaged leg are likely to be severe.

But Maier, who will celebrate his 31st birthday tomorrow, arrives at this Colorado resort bristling with confidence after a stunning super-G victory on Sunday in Lake Louise, Canada.

While it has been three years since he last raced the Birds of Prey piste, Beaver Creek has been a happy hunting ground for the burly Austrian and the site of some of his greatest successes.

In 10 career starts here Maier can count seven wins, including three world champion gold medals and two World Cup downhill wins.

Maier showed he had lost none of his affinity for the course on Thursday when he clocked the fastest time in the only training run for yesterday's first downhill.

"It's going to be very tough," said Maier, who also had the fastest time in the only training run on Thursday. "For me the last race here was three years ago and now it is very open, very fast with big jumps.

"The win in Lake Louise has given me very much more self-confidence but I will need it because this course is very dangerous."

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