There’s a charismatic, hard-charging Italian skier on the World Cup circuit who loves being the life of the party and sparkles when the spotlight shines in his direction.
And, no, the great Alberto Tomba hasn’t made a return to the slopes at nearly 45 years old.
Christof Innerhofer is drawing more and more comparisons to his boyhood hero, the skier he vowed to emulate when he grew up.
Only, Tomba is Tomba, and in a league of his own.
Sure, Innerhofer appreciates everyone pointing out that he’s a lot like the flamboyant superstar, but Innerhofer readily acknowledges he still has a long way to go to live up to the reputation of Tomba.
On the slopes, at least.
Off the hill, Innerhofer’s doing just fine. Last summer, fresh off earning three medals at the world championships, Innerhofer appeared everywhere. He was featured in the Italian editions of magazines such as Men’s Health and Vanity Fair, along with attending one social function after another.
He was constantly seen and heard — very Tomba-esque.
“Tomba was the biggest ski racer from Italy, but after the race, he enjoyed other things,” Innerhofer said with a sly grin.
And that’s become Innerhofer’s credo, too. Ski hard, train hard, but don’t forget to party hard.
“It’s true. I sometimes go out and have fun with my friends,” said Innerhofer, who finished 19th in a downhill training run on Thursday on the Birds of Prey course. “I’m young. I live for ski racing, but outside of ski racing it’s another life. I’m single. I can do what I want.”
Still, he doesn’t let his time in the limelight interfere with his skiing. Even with his busy social calendar in the offseason, Innerhofer still arrived at team camp in perhaps the best shape of his career.
He breezed through the squad’s fitness exam, pedaling the stationary bike at 500 watts, which was about 20 percent more than anyone else.
“That means I trained really hard,” said Innerhofer, a two-time World Cup winner.
With that kind of offseason, Innerhofer was primed for a big year. And then he had a setback. One that, in retrospect, could have been a lot worse. While training in Austria last month, Innerhofer crashed and injured his head, along with bruising and slightly twisting his left knee. The wipeout sidelined him for 10 days.
He competed in the super-G and downhill races last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta, but was a little apprehensive about letting loose. He was 23rd in the downhill and didn’t finish the super-G.
“I know I’m not perfect now with my head,” Innerhofer said. “I must push, have more confidence and know I can go with the best. I will try to push more.”
He turned in a sensational downhill training run on Wednesday, finishing second overall.
On Thursday, he was having a solid run, but made some mistakes in the bottom section of the course, costing him time. He also had a brief period where he lost focus — a dangerous thing to do going nearly 100kph. That’s partly because his head still bothers him from the crash.
“My problem is with concentration,” said Innerhofer, who turns 27 on Dec. 17. “When I come down into the finish after two minutes so intensive, yeah, it’s hard because it [hurts] a little bit.
“But I skied some gates really good [on Thursday], tried to push really hard. And, yeah, when I do a perfect run, I can be for sure in the top 10,” he said.