Drawing the first starting position in a ski race isn't considered lucky. It's like asking a speed horse to set the pace in the Kentucky Derby and then hold off all the late chargers in the stretch.
If Ulrike Maier and Martin Hangl were horses, they'd each have worn blankets of roses on Wednesday after winning gold medals in super giant slalom races in the World Alpine Ski Championships. Surprisingly, each played the role of the speed horse, starting early over fresh snow and holding off all challengers."When I drew the first start number, I wasn't pleased," the Austrian Maier admitted. "But then I changed my attitude and psyched myself up.
"It turned out to be an excellent number, by the way."
Indeed it did. Maier put up a clocking of 1 minute, 19.46 seconds that many threatened but none could top.
Equipment, the word the skiers use to describe their skis, and early start numbers proved crucial on another sub-zero day.
"When I saw this morning that Ulrike Maier won her race with starting No. 1 on the same brand of skis, it really motivated me and gave me a lot of confidence," Switzerland's Hangl said.
He came down first in 1:38.81, and the second starter, teammate Pirmin Zurbriggen, was the only skier to get within one-third of a second of the lead.
Alberto Tomba of Italy drew start No. 5, usually considered a fine number. But he said the course was already breaking down when he raced.
"There were holes forming at some gates, and I suspect the gatekeepers were throwing in fresh snow to cover them. I think the new snow made it slower around those gates."
Hangl figured he had a great chance and was somewhat amused so few others had seen it.
"It is quite strange that not everybody considered me as the No. 1 favorite as I have won three out of the last four super-G's."
Not to mention that he had fast skis and the perfect starting number.