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LILLEHAMMER: ’94 WINTER OLYMPICS : Tomba’s Arrival Comes With Typical Bombast : Slalom: Ski star regales media with funny opinions, including changing city’s name to ‘Lille-Tomba.’

When Alberto Tomba hits town, you can almost hear it.

The 27-year-old Italian slalom star arrived at the Winter Olympics Thursday, accompanied by his usual entourage--photographers, a personal cook, trainers, admirers.

And one bottle of red wine. Tomba wouldn’t say whether it was for a victory toast.

He will try to become the first skier to win a gold medal in three consecutive Olympic Games. He won the slalom and giant slalom at Calgary in 1988, and repeated in GS in 1992 at Albertville.

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First, though, a little fun. The renegade playboy, known for his fast cars and insatiable thirsts, fielded questions here Friday.

He revealed that 24 phone messages were awaiting him when he arrived.

What’s a sex symbol to do?

At Calgary, Tomba suggested that Canada rename the province Alberta to “Alberto” in his honor.

In France, he suggested the “Albertoville Olympics.”

What about Norway?

“Lille-Tomba,” Alberto said.

Asked about the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan saga, Tomba said: “In Italy, if that happened, if someone would hit me, I would just hit back.”

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A very nervous, female Japanese reporter, trying to get the jump on the 1998 Winter Games at Nagano, asked Tomba about the cook who travels with him.

Tomba responded: “I’ll cook spaghetti for you in Nagano.”

In a second of seriousness, Tomba did reaffirm that these would be his last Olympics, that he would go to Nagano only as a tourist. Tomba said he has become more diligent about his work over the years, and that he will, on occasion, look at his three gold medals for inspiration.

“Sometimes when I feel like winning, I will look at them again,” he said.

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Tomba still has a few days to prepare for his events, Wednesday’s giant slalom at Hafjell, and the slalom there Feb. 27.

“I think I’m more serious than I used to be,” he said. “I laugh because you have to laugh. Otherwise, you don’t win.”


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