February 16, 1998
Competing in the downhill a few days earlier, the Austrian skier misjudged a jump at speed and flew out of control and high into the air before landing back on the icy slope, with his head seeming to bear the brunt of the fall.
From there, he was catapulted off the course, the force of his fall enough for him to break through two sets of safety netting before he finally came to a rest after what seemed like an age face down in thick snow at the side.
Motionless for a minute, he gathered himself up, checking he hadn’t damaged his knee before getting up on his own two feet.
Defying expectations, doctors declared him fit to continue for the remainder of the Games and, undeterred, he returned to action a few days later in the super-G.
On this day 19 years ago, Hermann Maier crashed at Nagano 1998. He was back 3 days later, and this is what happened… pic.twitter.com/SuEDh6ygYM
— Olympics (@Olympics) February 13, 2017
He proved to be in a class of his own in what was something of a trademark discipline for the duration of his career, winning by 0.61 seconds from his closest challengers. Three days later, he added another gold in the giant slalom, the margin of victory an even more sizeable at 0.85 seconds.
They proved to be the only Olympic gold of an illustrious career for ‘the Herminator’, a nickname given to him as a nod to his fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, star of the Terminator films.
“My big goal was to get back in shape physically. With regards to my future life, my health was paramount for me and that’s why I’m calling it quits now.”
During his career, Maier won a total of four overall World Cup titles as well as 10 discipline crowns.
No stranger to accidents, he nearly had to have his leg amputated following a motorbike crash in 2001 but amazingly he returned to winning ways on the slopes once more.
In fact, he did not retire until 2009 following another crash in which he damaged his knee. In an emotional press conference, he said: “My big goal was to get back in shape physically. With regards to my future life, my health was paramount for me and that’s why I’m calling it quits now.”