14/09/2020Corty at the Venice Film Festival
Although his parents were Norwegian, the young Roald felt completely Welsh.
He was so proud to be one of Her Majesty The Queen’s subjects that when World War II began he decided to join the Royal Air Force to fight against the Nazis, wherever they might be.
Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Kenya and so on; always diving, aboard his fighter jet. However, it is not for his fighting skills that the World remembers him.
A bit like a latter-day Paul on the road to Damascus, in fact, Roald, whose surname was Dahl, was almost completely blinded during one of his high-speed missions.
Declared unfit at the next medical examination—luckily for us—he put into action his backup plan: becoming a writer.
Children’s literature, to be more precise.
Pure art, to be even more precise.
Because his works are unforgettable, they will be imprinted on the minds of children and adults forever.
From Charlie and the Chocolate factory to the great cult The Twits, his imagination knew no boundaries and ended up giving to posterity, in 1982, a powerful ideological manifesto—The Big Friendly Giant.
Over the years the BFG, as he liked to be called, has become one of the most reliable sources for those who are looking for memorable quotes to refer to when, in life, something seems too complicated.
“A dream is not needing anything. If it is a good one, it is waiting peaceably for ever until it is released and allowed to do its job. If it is a bad one, it is always fighting to get out.”
The superG, or Super Giant, is exactly like the BFG.
It debuted in the 1980s but traces its origins back in the past, it is the result of what existed in the previous decades.
It is elegant, complex, but also powerful and if you do not adjust everything to perfection you risk losing control.
And eventually it is wise, because only those who can take the right line and dominate the steep gradient can really master this discipline.
The first World Cup superG crystal globe was awarded no earlier than 1986, long after the White Circus made its debut and exactly 30 years after the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina.
In the previous seasons, a couple of Super-G races had been held, but without much conviction. Then, in the end and at last, the number of races was increased to 6 and a dedicated World Cup title was introduced.
In medio stat virtus, virtue lies in the middle.
The Romans knew that, and if they knew that, then everyone knows that because Europe as a whole, for a time, spoke the language of the Caesars.
SuperG and the virtue that lies in the middle, then.
On the one hand, the aim was to calm down the impulsive and rather reckless downhillers, and give them the chance to compete for the overall World Cup title, which would always, or almost always, be awarded to the specialists in the technical disciplines.
On the other hand, the tech specialists had the chance to try their hand at one of the speed disciplines.
More for everyone, in short.
It is not surprising, then, that the World Cup superG Hall of Fame is full of elegant ‘jugglers’. Male and female champions capable of finding the perfect pace that combines strength and elegance with consistency as lowest common denominator.
Pirmin Zurbriggen, for example, made consistency a way of life.
Swiss, or rather, very Swiss, with his blond quiff, blue eyes, and his imposing square jaw. Zurbriggen was one of those who dominated the scene in the last quarter of the last century, during which he won 4 World Cup overall titles. His favourite, maybe, is the one he won in 1988 when he defeated the Italian Alberto Tomba by only 29 points. Tomba probably would have never thought that he would have to wait until 1995 to claim his overall title. At that time a win would only bring 25 points instead of 100 as it does today, but Tomba always regretted that defeat anyway.
Pirmin, in any case, was a metronome. Precise, fast, technical but with great gliding skills. In one word: all-round. The superG became a hunting ground for him and he won no less than 4 titles, also with the help of his intimidating, all black helmet.
He was the first great superG specialist and it was in this discipline that he earned the most World Cup medals, 23, out of a total of 83 World Cup podium finishes for him. Actually, to be precise, Pirmin was not the very first. That title belongs to a Bavarian from West Germany, a certain Markus Wasmeier, who won the first crystal globe in winter 1986.
He barely managed to appear on a 1988 Paraguayan commemorative stamp, before a long period without winning anything. It is best not to wonder about the love triangle between South Americans, stamps and alpine skiing because any good skier from the ‘80s or ‘90s ended up stuck on a letter in Paraguay. Markus was the favourite in the superG at Calgary 1988, but he straddled a gate in the first part of the race, something really unusual. Six years later, he took his revenge in Lillehammer by winning two Olympic golds in superG and Giant Slalom.
While the men’s alpine skiing world was celebrating Zurbriggen, the women’s superG competitions were dominated by a French skier, Carole Merle. 1.6 m and less than 60 kg. A tiny, very tiny skier, but in that new discipline she was able to show off her great power.
Curly and wild hair—like a disco music star—and small bags under her narrow eyes. Carole was the Super-G specialist par excellence and won 4 superG World Cup titles in a row from 1989 to 1992.
From then on, things really began to hot up, at least on the men’s side.
On the men’s side, because on the women’s side Carole gave her sceptre to a new tyrant, the German Katja Seizinger, who too won 4 Super-G World Cup titles in a row, but was boring, because she would win every race, not only the superG competitions.
Among the men, once everyone got used to Super-G, there were many champions who excelled in this new discipline and the Hall of Fame from the early ‘90s looks like a collection of rare stickers.
Paul Accola, known as Pauli, from Davos, Switzerland.
Luc Alphand, from France, who was so fond of speed that when he retired from competitive skiing, he started a career in car racing. He even won the Paris-Dakar.
Then Kjetil André Aamodt and the only Italian skier able to win the superG crystal globe before Domme Paris, i.e. Peter Runggaldier, in 1995. That was a fantastic year for Italy—Tomba won 3 titles and Ghedo was second in the Downhill standings.
And yet, despite these big names and an equally impressive list of great female skiers, dynasties soon became fashionable again.
From the 8 titles in 10 years won by the Attacking Vikings—the Norwegian team comprising Svindal (4 plus one won before), Jansrud (3) and Kilde (1)—which have been dominating the discipline from 2009 onwards, to the 4 straight superG titles—5 in total—clinched by Her Majesty Lindsey Vonn, who is always in the spotlight for her class and the important role she has played in the History of this sport.
But there is another specialist who deserves a place in our story—the winner of the 2003/04 season.
It was late winter and ‘Yeah’ by Usher and ‘Dragostea Din Tei’ by Haiducii were the hits of the moment; which one was your favourite determined, at least partially, to which social group you belonged at the time.
When the season kicked off, there was an ex-young, 31-year-old skier who had nearly lost one leg not long before.
Hermann Maier was as excited as a rookie, but on top of his fireplace, in Salzburg, there were already 2 Olympic golds, 3 overall crystal globes, 4 superG titles, 3 Giant Slalom and 2 Downhill titles.
The official nickname of the Austrian was Herminator, with reference to the Hollywood franchise. Hermann bore comparison with Arnold Schwarzenegger not only thanks to his muscles, but also to his features, which made him look exactly like an action movie hero.
In 2001, when Maier was at the peak of his career, he had been hit by a car driven by a German tourist, who had struck the motorcycle he was riding.
Seven hours of surgery, a skin graft and the real possibility of losing a leg made one of the most iconic skiers ever relegate his career to the back of his mind.
A distant, snow-covered thought. One to look at only to find some inspiration while trying to climb back to the summit of normality.
Even only being able to walk again would have been a success.
But if your reference model is Terminator (there are six films and a seventh one is coming out soon, so you can choose which one) it must be difficult to accept to give up.
In a cosmic analogy of planetary realignment, in the 2003/04 season there were exactly seven superG events.
Hermann always stood on the podium, finishing respectively first, second, third, second, first, third, first.
He earned 580 points in superG, almost twice as much as the runner-up, the American Daron Rahlves.
He won his last overall World Cup title that year as well, thus crowning an incredible career.
SuperG is a unique discipline, if you want to excel in it you need to find the right balance between madness and technique.
Many people get scared in front of it, but if you talk to it gently, it immediately becomes calm, it becomes a BFG.