A Devastating Accident
Maier went on to win nine World Cup titles in the next three seasons. In 2000 he accomplished the rare feat of winning four World Cup titles-downhill, giant slalom, super G, and overall-in one year, and he repeated this accomplishment in 2001. That year he also tied famed Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark's record of 13 wins in World Cup races in a single season. He was "the Herminator," unstoppable. Then a horrible accident threatened to end his career, and possibly his life.
Maier was riding his motorcycle in Radstadt, Austria, on August 24, 2001, when he was hit by a car and thrown into a ditch. He suffered severe injuries in both legs, and doctors considered amputating his right leg. Ultimately the leg was saved, but Maier was in no shape to compete in the 2001-02 season. He first strapped on skis again that December. In the summer of 2002 Maier traveled to Chile to practice for his comeback, but he reinjured his leg. Finally, on January 14, 2003, Maier raced in his first World Cup event since the accident. He finished a disappointing thirty-first in the first run of this giant slalom event, missing the cutoff to compete in the second run by five-hundredths of a second, but he vowed to keep trying. "I have to admit I was expecting to do a bit better," Maier said after the race, Erica Bulman of the Associated Press reported. "But in reality, it's a victory for me just to be back racing."