Secretary General, Sports Media Austria
VIENNA, November 7, 2009 - Several weeks ago Austrian alpine ski hero Hermann Maier announced his retirement to a packed press conference. The “Herminator” was choked with emotion and had tears in his eyes when he announced the end of a great sport career.
Maier, who turns 37 next month has won four overall World Cup titles (1998, 2000, 2001, 2004), two Olympic gold medals (both in 1998), three World Championship titles (1999, 1992, and 2005) and 54 races on the World Cup circuit. He is a four-time recipient of Austria’s Sportsman of the Year Award.
Maier's racing career almost came to an end following a motorcycle accident in August 2001 - he collided with a car on his way home from a summer training session in Austria. Doctors considered the amputation of his lower leg but instead Maier underwent massive reconstructive surgery. Most believed his racing career was over, and he had to sit out the 2002 season, missing the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He returned to international competition in January 2003 in Adelboden and only two weeks later, Maier shocked the ski world with an amazing Super-G victory in Kitzbühel. The “Herminator” was back!
In honour of his fantastic comeback Sports Media Austria created a new trophy – the “Special Award”. Maier was the 2003 recipient – and as the first sportsman of Austria 2009 he receives it for a second time. This year for the first time there were two Special Awards announced - besides Hermann Maier, champion alpine ski racer Renate Götschl who is expecting a child and retired this past summer, was also honoured.
The awards were presented by Sports Media Austria president Michael Kuhn at the “Lottery-Gala-Eve of Sports” on Wednesday, November 4 in Voesendorf near Vienna. This time on the stage were no tears. Maier said he was pleased to enjoy skiing for pleasure and not be bound by training schedules. When he was asked what he will do in the future, Maier answered “Children!”
Winter sports dominate
Winners in the male category were ski jumper Wolfgang Loitzl, (world champion and winner of the Intersport-Tournee), followed by another jumper Gregor Schlierenzauer (world cup winner with a point record and 13 seasonal victories). In third position was Manfred Pranger, world champion in Alpine Skiing (Slalom). The party, honored by Austria’s Federal President Heinz Fischer and a large number of important political and sporting dignitaries was in strong “winter hands”.
But in the ladies category alpine ski-star Kathrin Zettel (world champion in the combination) was beaten by swimming-pin up girl Mirna Jukic (third at world championships). Mountain biker Elisabeth Osl received the third place award.
In the team category winter sports featured again with the world champions in ski-jumping taking out the top award followed by the biathlon-team and the football team Rapid Vienna. Bring on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games! Austrian sport is well- and ready to take on the challenge.