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Many great skiers are born in the mountains, and their sporting destinies are shaped from an early age. Alberto Tomba was a bit different. The Italian was also a keen footballer, and as a youngster had played tennis and raced motorbikes. However, as he grew older his greatest passion became skiing.
Known almost universally as Tomba the Bomba, he was a graceful and technically superb skier who had won his first World Cup races – a slalom and a giant slalom - the season prior to Calgary 1988.
His skiing style was aggressive and determined, and as he blended experience to his natural speed and flair, he established himself as one of the best skiers in the world.In Calgary, despite the fact that he was an Olympic debutant, Tomba was probably favourite for the giant slalom, and he quickly justified the expectation on the first run. The Italian was more than a second quicker than anyone else, an incredible gap for an Olympic skiing event, and one that almost guaranteed him victory as long as he avoided mishaps on the second descent.
He did that – this time finishing second fastest 0.1 seconds behind Austria's Hubert Strolz, who took the silver medal.
A second gold followed just a couple of days later, this time in the slalom. But this time it was a much closer run thing, and Tomba was just third in the standings after the opening run.
In the lead was Germany's Frank Wörndl, a more experienced skier who had covered the first run 0.63 seconds quicker than Tomba. However, the German appeared to succumb to the pressure in his second run, only managing to finish eighth fastest in the second run, while Tomba produced another sleek descent to record the second best time, 0.34 seconds behind Swedish veteran Ingemar Stenmark. Tomba's second run was a full 0.7 seconds quicker than Wörndl’s, putting the Italian into first place and onto the top step of the podium.
The Italian had further cause to celebrate, too. Before the Games, Tomba's father had bet him he wouldn't come back from Calgary with a gold medal and had promised to buy him a Ferrari if he did. When his son returned home, Tomba's father duly honoured the bet.