IN MEMORIAM; WORLD CHAMPION ULRIKE MAIER
Every year at the end of January my memory gives me a wake-up call. I’ll never forget the 29. of January 1994 when Ulli Maier, a two-time ski world champion and two-time Olympic skier, died during a ski race Super-G in Garmisch.
On that day there was a tribute race in Rauris and some slopes were closed for visitors. I trained a little bit on my snowboard at the beginners’ slope where we demonstrated some ski technic every week. All of a sudden there was a panic situation. Some people who watched the race in Garmisch cried that Ulli had a terrible accident in the race and Ullis father and her partner went away. A shock went through the village as our fear turned out to be the reality: Ulli died.
When I met Ulli for the first time when she opened the front door, I saw a young friendly woman with a sporty silhouette eating a kiwi. She told me about the vitamins in it and the best way to eat. I had an appointment with her father to work in their ski school. So since 1988 I lived in the nice village and knew her and her family because I was situated in their basement where a couple of ski instructors lived during the ski season. It seemed that everyone loved Ulli because she was kind, normal, a real top sportswoman, and helpful.
During the wintertime, Ulli was on tour most of the time, training or racing. When her car with the number ULLI 1 arrived in the village, people said: Ulli is in town. Ulli had a tremendous amount of fans in the village and all over the ski circus of course. There was a fan club that visited the races in the neighborhood. For example in Flachau where we screamed for her. Sometimes the ladies of the Austrian National Team trained in Rauris in the morning and organized a meet and greet with signature cards. It was a nice community.
Sometimes the Maier family invited us to look at television and see Ulli ski a race somewhere, for example when she won in Vail. When Ulli won the big race, the World Championship in the season 88/89, the community organized a real party with all kinds of ski people and ski stars. I remember a ceremony where Ulli, the big star, modest as always, enjoyed her trophy. The atmosphere was so nice and cozy and I can still feel this nice part where they played: Gazebo “I Like Chopin”, when the stars in the sky were sparkling on the ski star.
Ulli was a well-known citizen, daughter of the ski school, and a real talent. As a little girl, she already won some important races. She studied at the Ski Hauptschule Badgastein and the Skihandelsschule Schladming. Her career started at the age of 6 and continued until her death. Two breaks with an injury and her baby girl were in between. She won several medals in the Worldcup and joined the Olympic Winter Games two times.
The ski school office was overfilled with her trophies to look at when people reserved their ski course. In this family company, Ulli was the racer, the older sister worked at the office with their mum and the younger sister went to school. Her father, who owned the Weltmeister Skischule followed Ulli sometimes abroad where he demonstrated the very old school telemark in his historical clothes. They were a good team. Everyone knew and knows that Ski racing is the Formula 1 on skis so it can be dangerous, but no one could ever imagine this would happen to her.
In a split second her ski glided at the side and she fell and hit the race timing clock and died immediately because she broke her neck. Such a disaster and no one had enough tears. Unbelievable and sad. Ulli was brought home and we could say goodbye to her, lying as a beautiful princess in her coffin. All the people of the ski school were expected to form a guard of honor for her funeral at the graveyard. Although the sun was shining a little bit and the birds were singing it was a very cold day off course. No one was allowed to wear gloves and hats, so you can imagine, after a few hours, we were nearly frozen. Ulli’s parents and family were mentally broken, but the high season in February was coming. Everyone helped to give the guests a nice vacation.
There was a black cloud over Rauris these days. We were all sorry for this terrible situation and did the best we could. Ulli’s little girl Melanie (Melly) was there sometimes and everyone felt uncomfortable. Melly once said: my mum is Ulli Maier and now she’s dead. She didn’t understand off course. Everyone tried to help the Maiers living again because they could only be busy visiting the graveyard every day. This situation was never-ending because Ulli never came back and also her little girl, their granddaughter was raised by her father’s family. I hope Melanie lives, despite all these troubles, a nice life and she knows everything about her lovely mum. As a little girl, Melanie was a good skier. A couple of years ago I heard she became also a sportswoman but then on a horse.
In Rauris at the square near the graveyard, there was made a nice monument for Ulli Maier and many people visit this place every day. Ulli’s Gescheckstube was a nice shop near the church too, but now things have changed. The historical house got a new owner with a new concept. Every year there is a commemoration for Ulli and the citizens of Rauris remember her honorable.
Two years ago, finally, a tribute was organized in Rauris. It was the 25.th time they honored her respectfully. Ulli’s race slope in this ski area was named after Ulli Maier: Die Ulrike-Maier-Ski slope. Her mum and two sisters were there to see that Ulli will be remembered at the ski slope, where she started her great career. I’m proud of her cousin who also was responsible for this tribute. Unfortunately, Ulli’s father couldn’t see it: he already died in 2012.
I hope Ulli Maier will be remembered as a great athlete with a beautiful ski style, a nice sister/daughter/family member, a friendly woman with a good heart. After her terrible accident, some things changed in the ski sport, for example, some rules and the safety for the athletes.
And maybe she was right when she said: “You can’t escape your own destiny”.
Thank you for knowing you dear Ulli and rest in peace.