Laureus World Sports Academy and AIPS (International Sports Press Association) held a special media reception on Tuesday evening to celebrate the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Many Olympic medalists were in attendance, including China's gold medalist pairs skaters Zhao Hongbo and Shen Zhao, Russia's figure skating silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko, Korean speed skater and gold medalist Sang Hwa Lee. Italian Olympic gymnast Yuri Chechi made an appearance as well as AIPS president Gianni Merlo.
Three members of Laureus, former Olympic medalists, also attending as guests were Kip Keino, Katarina Witt and Alberto Tomba. As part of a small group of the press (three others) and with the assistance of Robin Monsky of Round Robin Sports, I was able to sit down with Alberto and ask a few questions during a brief question-and-answer session.
Q: Tell us about your trip to Calgary to revisit the site of the 1988 Olympics.
Tomba: Yes, it was great. It was the best. After 20 years I went back to Calgary, I walked the slopes of Nakiska and then took a chair lift and spend three hours, had lunch. I saw the slope, the GS slope and the slalom and I was thinking about that time, where the people were positioned during the race.
Everything seemed much bigger and different. It was very emotional yesterday after 22 years. I took my bib, my No. 11 that I wore for the slalom. I don’t know what happen to the No 1 that I wore in the GS as I could not find it after 22 years.
So that was amazing yesterday, [going] back to Calgary after 22 years. Canada it was bring me luck the first time and so it was back to Vancouver because there is a good story also.
When I finished my second race and [won] my second medal the day after, the next day we fly to Vancouver, to race in The World Cup in Whistler. They cancelled the race that day because it was foggy so I went straight to Hawaii from there for five days.
Q: Have you been to any of the Alpine Events here?
Tomba: No, I will go up tonight. I am waiting for my discipline GS and Slalom. We could talk about tomorrow with Blardone, Massimiliano; Simoncelli, Davide; Manfred Moelgg, with that history they could win a medal.
They won over in the World Cup. We hope so. We miss, we need a medal. We did not take a medal in Turin in 2006, this is a problem. We finish fourth in downhill, combined and fourth in Super G.
Q [from the IceMan]: During the 2006 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Turin, you brought the Olympic Flame into the stadium where you handed off to the men’s 4 x 10 km. What did that mean to you?
Tomba: Yes, that was a great moment. Enter with the torch in the stadium. 80,000 people screaming. I was waiting downstairs for the start for 10 hours; I was so tired with the torch. I give the torch to the combined ski cross country that they win gold in Lillehammer in 1994.
Entering the stadium like in history, that was great. Bring the torch inside the stadium that was amazing night in Torino. I was 40, no 39.
Somebody ask me. Alberto, why you not race in Torino? I finished my career here in 1998. The 15 of March which was my last victory. Of course, I’m still in good shape but Salt Lake City was in 2002.
Q: Where was your last win?
Tomba: 1998 in Switzerland
Q [from the IceMan]: After the first run of the slalom at the 1994 Winter Olympics, you were seemingly out of medal contention, 1.84 seconds behind leader Thomas Stangassinger, but your stunning second run rocketed you to second place and a silver medal. Could you rewind back to that moment and tell me what you were thinking waiting to make your second run?
Tomba: I wake up that night before the race. I was nervous, I don’t know. The first run it probably was the ski. I chose the No. 1 because at that time the rules was the best in the world because you can choose the number for first. In that case I took the No. 1 but it was the wrong decision.
The best start number was number five, number six. It was really cold, 30 degrees below zero that morning. With number one in the 400 hundred it did nothing. The snow is coming its quicker, fast. That was my fault.
I was thirteen after the first run
I think, all my power, don’t care, ah let’s go for medal. It was silver.
Q: Are you surprised at what Bode Miller has been able to do here? How Bode Miller has skied.
Tomba: You mean the time because he was drinking late at night? Maybe now he has changed. He has good training before these Olympics. It was like Julia Mancuso. He (Miller) has been unbelievable. That kid so strong in comparison to the others. I think he did a good job.
Q [from the IceMan]: What is the toughest course you ever skied?
Tomba: World Cup or Olympics?
Tomba: Albertville on the GS.
And so ended the interview with a very flamboyant and accommodating Olympian.
Tomba la Bomba. Winner of three Olympic gold medals, two World Championships, and nine World Cup season titles; four in slalom, four in giant slalom, and one overall title.