Austria finally has a “Doppel-Weltmeister” again.
The picturesque landscape of the colorful Italian Dolomites provided the fitting backdrop for Vincent Kriechmayr, named after the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, to draw perfect lines in the snow of the Vertigine course and become a double speed world champion.
More than 1.4 million viewers in his ski-mad home country, about one-sixth of the entire population, saw Kriechmayr’s gold run in Sunday’s downhill live on TV, national broadcaster ORF said Monday.
No Austrian had won gold in both downhill and super-G at a world championships since standout Hermann Maier completed the feat in 1999 – back when Austria’s downhill skiers were dubbed “The Wunderteam” because of their dominance.
In fact, no Austrian man had won the world downhill title since Michael Walchhofer did it 18 years ago.
Matthias Mayer won the 2014 Olympic downhill, but has failed to get a medal from 13 starts across five worlds.
A day after Kriechmayr ended the drought, he was called “The Vincinator” by Austrian tabloid Oe24, playing off Maier’s nickname “The Herminator.”
In Kriechmayr’s case, though, comparisons to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous “Terminator” character may not be as appropriate.
“Vince is very cool guy,” said Peter Schröcksnadel, the president of the Austrian winter sports federation who is set to step down in June after 31 years. “He is relaxed, polite, a grounded man, an ordinary human.”
Andreas Puelacher, the Austria men’s head coach, also had a list of compliments.
“His skiing technique is truly top. He has matured over the years and has become more consistent,” Puelacher said. “He is more relaxed and less dogged. This is his highlight, for now.”
At 29, Kriechmayr, is in his prime as a speed skier.
The double gold medalist has a Flemish mother, Gertrudis, an art history teacher who was on vacation in Austria when she met Heinrich Kriechmayr, a farmer who worked as a ski instructor during the winter.
They named Vincent’s twin brother Rafael after the Italian Renaissance painter. And his older sister Jacoba, a renowned freestyle skier, shares her name with Maria Jacoba Ommeganck, an 18th-century Flemish neoclassical painter.
A mother who speaks Dutch is no exception for an Austrian top skier.
Marcel Hirscher’s mom, Sylvia, is from the Netherlands and she also moved to Austria following a holiday where she met a ski instructor, Ferdinand Hirscher.
The record eight-time overall World Cup champion was among the first to congratulate after Sunday’s downhill, calling one of the team’s spokesmen to get Kriechmayr on the phone.
“Marcel is the most successful skier. I’m really pleased he called to congratulate me,” said Kriechmayr, adding he would need “a whole lot of time” to answer all the complimentary messages he received.