Austria’s Matthias Mayer made history on Tuesday at the 2022 Winter Olympics by winning an Alpine skiing gold medal at three straight Games, leaving his awe-struck rivals almost speechless.
Mayer claimed gold in the super-G, having previously topped the podium in the downhill at the 2014 Sochi Games and super-G at PyeongChang 2018, as other favorites such as Swiss pair Beat Feuz and Marco Odermatt did not complete the course.
His achievement brought praise from fellow competitors who lauded his ability to produce his best on the big occasion.
“It’s unbelievable. To make it happen on the days when it counts the most. I’m a little lost for words,” said Norway’s 36-year-old Kjetil Jansrud.
“He’s been dominating for so many years but he also is one of the few who really steps up to the big occasion,” he said.
That was echoed by Germany’s Josef Ferstl, describing Mayer as a phenomenon. “It’s something to be jealous of,” he said.
U.S. silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle was pleased to have pushed Mayer hard, finishing 0.04 seconds off the pace.
“To be so close to him, that’s something special… I wouldn’t want to have it any other way,” he said.
“It’s madness how he always manages to get it done to this degree of precision,” Haaser said.
Asked what it was like to have a skiing great like Mayer on the team, Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr, who came fifth, said it was always good to have a top athlete competing with you.
“You end up pushing each other forward. A good team mate is much more important than any coach,” he explained.
Mayer’s performance across three Games is unmatched in men’s racing, but Italy’s Deborah Compagnoni won Olympic gold in the women’s super-G in 1992 and giant slalom in 1994 and 1998.
The Austrian remembered how he could not believe he was competing with greats such as Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal at the 2014 Games, thinking how much he could learn from them.
“Now I am at the point where I get such questions about how younger skiers look up to me, and that is a lovely feeling,” he said, proudly wearing his gold medal.
Canada’s James Crawford, 24, who finished sixth, said he felt privileged to be in such esteemed company.
“It’s unbelievable to be able to ski with them. They’re the guys who kind of inspired me growing up skiing,” he said.
“It drove me to where I am today and to get to actually contend with those guys it’s surreal.”
Asked whether he had told his idols this, he added laughing: “I don’t need to tell them that, that’s a bit of an ego boost.”
He was not the only young skier caught between admiring their childhood heroes and wanting to beat them.
“I don’t want to make these guys seem old but I grew up watching Mayer, I grew up watching Travis [Ganong] and Bryce [Bennett],” 23-year-old American River Radamus said referring to his team mates who finished 12th and 17th respectively.
“But I want more, I want to be able to compete with and hopefully beat them one day too.”