Success At Last
Maier skied in only three World Cup races in the 1995-96 season, but he did manage to finish eleventh in one of them. The next season he broke his wrist and missed part of the season, but he still finished in the top five at four races. Along the way, many people took notice of Maier's style of skiing, which was considerably more aggressive than that of most top racers. Most skiers took wide, gliding lines on their curves, covering more distance but maintaining speed that would have been lost had they carved more and hewed closer to the gates. Maier, on the other hand, had "the ability to glide while maintaining a tight line, which was always assumed to be impossible," his coach Werner Margreiter told Layden. "It's a very exciting thing to see."
In the 1997-98 season everything came together for Maier. He won three World Cup titles that season, the giant slalom and the super giant slalom (super G) as well as the overall. He also won two gold medals at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, in the same two events. He might possibly have won another medal in the downhill, the first event he skied in in Nagano, as well, had he not had a spectacular crash during that event. On a particularly steep curve near the top of the course Maier lost control at around 65 miles per hour, went airborne, and cartwheeled through two snow fences. He landed in soft snow, walked away with only a dislocated shoulder and a sprained knee, and won the gold medal in the super G only three days later.
The video of Maier's crash was shown repeatedly around the world over the next few days, much to Maier's chagrin. "If you ask me," he told Hampton Sides of Outside Online magazine, "I would prefer to be famous for winning two gold medals in Nagano rather than for my screwup."