Skiing: Maier cleared for return to slopes

Kieran Daley
Friday 21 December 2001 01:00

Hermann Maier, the double Olympic and world champion, has been given the go-ahead to return to the slopes today for the first time since suffering a serious motorcycle accident last summer. The Austrian will this morning begin his rehabilitation with a slow run down the Achterjet course in his home town of Flachau, the site of this season's World Cup finals.

The 28-year-old – whose domination of the sport prior to his accident earned him the nickname "the Herminator" – successfully attempted some cross-country skiing earlier this week as an initial test, and doctors have now allowed him to progress to alpine skiing, according to his agent, Knut Okresek.

"He'll be skiing down like a tourist on Alpine skis," Okresek said. "Not Herminator-like. But it will be good for him. Everything should be OK."

Maier, who nearly lost a leg following his accident in August, will be skiing with a specially padded boot designed to protect his right shin, where skin was grafted from his left upper arm. The boot is also designed to relieve some of the pressure on the bone, which was broken where the ski boot begins. Surgeons inserted screws and a titanium rod to repair his tibia. However, Maier knows that the special ski boot is only a temporary solution.

"If I really want to ski as I used to, I need the same old aggressive material that I used to ski with before," he said.

Maier, who was also badly bruised around his pelvis, is also recovering from nerve damage in both his legs. His motorcycle was hit by a car, throwing him into a ditch. He underwent seven hours of surgery and doctors said he was close to kidney failure and having his leg amputated.

Maier's doctor, Johannes Zeibig, said he should know in mid-January whether he can compete at the forthcoming Salt Lake City Games.

Yesterday, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, the Swedish veteran Fredrik Nyberg held off younger challengers to secure his first World Cup win of the season in a men's giant slalom.

The 32-year-old took his eighth career win, and first since a Super-G in Vail last year, after being pushed hard by the Austrian Benjamin Raich in the second leg. The 23-year-old produced a storming second run to go from ninth place to take the lead and stay there until only Nyberg remained to beat him. The Swede withstood the pressure.

The American Bode Miller, winner in Val d'Isère last week, was only 16th fastest while the world champion, Michael Von Grünigen, of Switzerland, was even further back in 18th place.

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