KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Matthias Mayer's Olympic downhill victory got quite a reception back home in ski-loving Austria.
"Everybody was happy," Mayer said with a wide-as-can-be smile on Thursday, four days after earning his gold medal. "Everybody was freaking out."
In Russia, too. After training for the Sochi Games' second Alpine men's event, Friday's super-combined, Mayer was stopped by course workers and volunteers who wanted him to pose for photos. He obliged.
It's been a bit of a whirlwind since his surprising win. Mayer's days have been filled, he said, with "a lot of media stuff," plus a celebratory party where he got to chat with Franz Klammer, who gave Austria a gold in the downhill at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics.
He says the best part of being a gold medalist — remember, this is a guy who'd never won in 65 previous World Cup or world championship races, nor finished better than fifth in a downhill — is the "cool feeling" he gets in the start gate now, knowing that he already is a champion.
And even if he's had plenty of distractions lately, preventing him from his usual training regimen, it's been worth it.
"We had a lot of fun. Of course, it was a little bit exhausting for me," he said, chuckling. "But I feel good now and I'm ready for races."
— By Howard Fendrich — Twitter http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu