Tomba cries over return to Calgary

By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — It was a trip back in time for Alberto (La Bomba) Tomba.

“It was my pilgrimage,” he said.

The Italian stallion ski legend went “home” on the weekend.

“I went to the slopes at Nakiska (near Banff, Alta.),” he said. “On the chair lift, I was crying.”

Tomba arrived in Vancouver Monday after spending the day before on a private, personal return to the Olympic ski hill where he won two gold medals at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games.

“It was a dream after 22 years,” he said, after an appearance at an event where his rumoured ’88 Olympic heart-throb, Katarina Witt, made a surprise appearance.

It was the A.I.P.S. international press organization awards dinner, attended by a host of Olympic athletes, present and past. Tomba held an interview with four journalists after the ceremonies.

“You are the first I tell, and I tell you I was crying,” he said of his return to the scene of his greatest moments.

“I saw the giant slalom slope and the slalom slope. I think of my time in 1988. It was very emotional.”

Tomba, who came to Calgary with a great deal of sizzle, won three Olympic gold medals in his career, including in the slalom and giant slalom at Calgary.

An Olympain through Nagano 1998, he won the GS gold in 1992 at Albertville.

While he also won two world championships, Calgary was the event he’ll always be best remembered for, not just on the ski hill, but around town where he made the scene.

He showed up to watch figure skater Witt, then made headlines when he sent a poster to her signed: “To the dear Katarina, best regards, Ciao, Alberto Tomba.”

It was the flamboyance which achieved him lasting fame beyond his success as a skier.

Witt teased him about not letting out the secret of their relationship at the function but Tomba, in the

interview, suggested there never was any relationship.

But he said it was a wild and crazy time.

“I entered those Olympics with seven consecutive wins, so I was obviously the favourite. I was 21. I was a kid. I was playing. Everything was easy.

“I was not too much concentrating on the races. Which is good at the Olympics. You can have too much concentration.”

Tomba said he also remembers Vancouver and Whistler, where he plans to spend the rest of the week with the Italian ski team, which tried to have a bit of Tomba’s Olympic success rub off on them by going to Nakiski for training on their way to Whistler.

Tomba summed up the experience as amazing.

“I was there for about three hours. It was amazing to go back 22 years later,” he said.

“I slept at Thomas Grandi’s house in Canmore,” added Tomba, of the Canadian alpine skier who is married to cross-country Olympian Sara Renner.

Any other observations through the tears on that chair lift at Nakiska? Tomba thought for a moment.

“The trees are taller,” he said.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

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