Austrian legend Hermann Maier skied through the pain of a bad back on Sunday to snap an almost three-year win drought by capturing the first super-G of the World Cup season.
Maier, who almost retired in the off-season, clocked 1 minute, 29.84 seconds on the steep Whitehorn Mountain course to finish just 0.59 seconds ahead of Canada’s John Kucera. Swiss downhill champ Didier Cuche was third.
Maier’s Austrian teammate Michael Walchhofer was fourth and Marco Sullivan of the US and Swiss Didier Defago tied for fifth.
“This is special,” said Maier, who turns 36 next Sunday. “In the spring I thought I would retire. Now I am happy I didn’t stop. It is a present for me to win here.”
It was like a giant hand reached up and turned back the clock for the four-time Olympic medalist. It was Maier’s fourth career super-G win in Lake Louise and his 54th career World Cup win. His last super-G victory was at Kitzbuehel, Austria, on Jan. 20, 2006, and his last previous World Cup victory came eight days later, in a downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Cuche said he hopes this isn’t the return of the “Hermintor.”
“It is nice to see him back, but hopefully it is only Hermann Maier and not the ‘Herminator,’” Cuche said.
The Austrian veteran said he almost retired in the off-season, but decided to give it another shot after some good training runs in Chile.
Maier, who started from 10th position, has been skiing all week in the Canadian Rockies with a bad back. He suffered a disc injury in his lower back in early September and lost two months of training heading into opening speed races of the season.
Doctors told him he had a 4mm fracture in a disc in his lower back. He now takes pain killers before races.
“My last win here was in 2003, so it is five years later. The super-G is maybe my favorite discipline,” Maier said.
With just 15 months to go before the 2010 Winter Games in nearby Vancouver, Maier said he is not thinking about the Olympics and is just hoping to put together a string of good performances this season.
“It is great to look into the future, but the Olympics is so far away,” Maier said.