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   Monday, 27 January, 2003, 13:10 GMT
The Herminator is back
Hermann Maier
Maier on his way to his first win since March 2001

Two years ago, hearing Hermann Maier had won a World Cup race would barely raise an eyebrow.

The powerful Austrian was so dominant in ski racing it was frankly becoming a bit boring.

But an horrific motorcycle crash in August 2001 changed all that.

The double Olympic champion was lucky to survive the accident and surgeons agonised over amputating his badly-damaged leg.

Thankfully, they decided to try and repair it and Maier underwent a number of painful operations to insert a titanium rod to pin his leg together.

Maier had to endure months of painful physiotherapy and finally returned to the ski slopes last July.

He said at the time his main hope was to be able to ski without pain.

Few people would have been able to do what Maier's done

Surgeon Arthur Trost

But a crash during summer training in Chile set Maier back.

There were strong rumours he would retire from the sport and was only carrying on training this season to keep his many sponsors happy.

But on 14 January 2003 Maier did return to World Cup action.

He took part in a giant slalom in Adelboden in Switzerland and failed to qualify for a second run.

Since then Maier's results have been encouraging, with a seventh and sixth place in two downhills.

But Monday's super-G in Kitzbuhel capped what many consider as one of the most amazing sporting comebacks.

Maier won his first race since March 2001 to take his World Cup tally to a record 42.

The ski legend is nicknamed 'The Herminator' because he is considered a robot by his skiing colleagues.

But when the 30-year-old cried at the finish line, the raw emotion was plain for all to see.

Hermann Maier in Kitzbuhel
Hermann Maier chokes back the tears
Maier said it was the biggest victory of his illustrious career.

"I never thought I would be skiing so well so soon after returning," he said.

"It's just so emotional for me to have achieved this after such a bad injury. I can only thank everyone who has helped me."

The surgeon who decided not to amputate Maier's leg summed up the skier's achievement.

Arthur Trost said: "What he has done is awesome, sensational.

"At one point we prayed only that he would be able to walk again, never mind ski again.

"Few people would have been able to do what he's done."

Maier's victory means he has cemented a place in the Austrian team for the World Ski Championships in St Moritz, starting on 1 February.

And I will for one will not consider it boring if he notches up a World Championship gold medal.

See also:

11 Jan 03 | Other Sports
27 Jan 03 | Other Sports
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