17 Olympic and World Championship medals: two brilliant careers – from Bormio to Vail
A very special award awaited the two former uvex professional skiers Niki Hosp and Markus Wasmeier at the uvex booth at ISPO, Munich. For the first time in its more than 90-year history, the family business from Fürth, Germany honors its longtime partners and former elite athletes with the uvex proud people award.
Christophe Weissenberger, CEO of uvex sports group explains, “The uvex proud people award is an accolade which symbolizes our gratitude, appreciation and respect towards deserving uvex athletes and their achievements and accomplishments. This year, we are very happy to honor two athletes with great achievements in alpine ski racing during their careers. They always present the uvex brand perfectly to the outside. With this award we say thank you to Niki and Markus.”
Nicole “Niki” Hosp and Markus Wasmeier have won 17 medals between them, at Olympic Games and World Championships. These two athletes have written ski history – two names, representing a special will to succeed, with a special connection to the uvex brand.
Markus Wasmeier loved to be on the start line at the biggest sporting events, always on the hunt for precious metals. He was only 21 years old when, in 1985, he became Giant Slalom World Champion, on Bormio’s legendary Stelvio course. 9 years later at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, he won Gold in Giant Slalom and Super G.
For over a decade, Niki Hosp was one of the most influential figures in alpine ski racing. In 2003 she won her first World Championship medal in St. Moritz, Switzerland. In 2007, she secured the overall World Cup and became World Champion in Åre, Sweden. She twice repeated this feat, with the German National Team, at the World Championships in Schladming, Austria (2013) and Vail/Beaver Creek, USA (2015).
Sport as a school for life
“Sport is great training for life,” says Niki Hosp, who now co-commentates on ski races as an expert, on ORF, an Austrian television channel. “You learn how important persistence and discipline are. That, in spite of your ambitions, you will only be successful, in the long term, if you enjoy what you do.” Even today, she leads a sporty life – and always tries to remain flexible.
“There is always a time for change,” said Niki, who, after she tore her cruciate ligament in the Giant Slalom at the end of 2009, never really got going again. “I accepted it, and I concentrated on Slalom, Super G and Combined.” It was the right decision! The Austrian pushed on and from 2013 to 2015 she won two more World Championship titles, as well as Silver and Bronze Medals at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“Bormio was sheer madness.”
Moments for eternity
When we reach Markus Wasmeier by telephone at his home in Schliersee, Germany, he has already been out clearing snow. “My world title was 32 years ago?” he asks, half in disbelief, half in amusement. “That sounds bad! But, I’m a man who lives in the present. And, as long as Bormio is still there, the memories of it are as fresh as ever. Moments like this are forever, nobody can take them away from you.”
Only 21 years old, he was so young that the events completely overwhelmed him. “Suddenly, everyone is patting you on the shoulder, it was sheer madness and really a bit much, for a young lad.” The double Olympic win in Lillehammer was more relaxed, says Wasmeier. “You are more experienced, also in dealing with the media, and can enjoy the whole experience so much more.”
“Descending between volcanoes to the sea.”
1st on the startline
The jump into a new career after retirement has been mastered by both uvex legends with flying colors. As well as working as a co-commentator on Austrian television, Niki Hosp works as a guide for a tour company offering heli-skiing in Kamchatka. “You ski between volcanoes, down to the sea. These are unforgettable journeys through breathtaking, wild nature.”
Markus Wasmeier has returned to his cultural roots. He enjoys playing the zither, and in 2007 he opened an open-air museum. In the past it was Markus who established course previews on ARD, enabling TV viewers to experience the race course from the athlete’s point of view. “I just wanted to wear bib number 1 again,” jokes Markus Wasmeier, “and enjoy free practice, even after my career.”
Two brilliant careers and two distinctive voices:
Niki Hosp and Markus Wasmeier talk spectacular races on the Teufelsberg, falling backwards and a world title with no goggles.
Has ski racing changed much, with fewer classic descents and instead, more spectacle, like Moscow, Oslo and in future, even Beijing?
Markus Wasmeier: “You always hear this! Even 25 years ago, we raced a World Cup race in Berlin, in front of thousands of spectators. In the past, the mood was generally more heated than it is today. There was massive rivalry between Austria and Switzerland. During some races, you hardly understood anything, because of the loud cowbells. In my opinion, it has calmed down. But, of course, there are still many spectacular races – like the slalom in Adelboden. There, the stadium is “on fire”, and the organization does a really fantastic job.”
How important is safety for a ski racer?
Niki Hosp: “It’s essential! The best thing is when you don’t have to worry about it, because you completely trust the engineers. This gives you the freedom to go to the limits. Because of the tight bends in slalom, it’s easy to fall, whenever the ski tips are torn into the air. You can get thrust backwards and can hit the back of the head really hard, so you’re really glad that the helmet absorbs the force of the impact. Even now, I always wear a helmet, I mean… when skiing, not otherwise. Although, when you’re Christmas shopping you might sometimes need one.”
Wearing a helmet for slalom only started in the 1990s. Is that still understandable from today’s perspective?
Markus Wasmeier: “Yes, it’s true. I also raced Giant Slalom without a helmet. It really was another time. In 1985 during my winning race in Bormio, Italy I came too close to a gate, and knocked into the pole with my head, and then I just saw the pattern of my hat. At the finish I no longer had my hat, and my goggles were around my neck. I couple of jokers then claimed that I only won because I couldn’t see where I should have slowed down.
Which uvex helmet and goggle are you wearing today?
Niki Hosp: “I am wearing the JAKK+ and I like to wear the big 40. They make me feel great. And, thanks to variomatic, I have great vision in all light conditions.”
Markus Wasmeier: “Oh, I hope I don’t get into trouble – I have no idea what they’re called! But, I can tell you why I have always used uvex. It’s because of Armin Kolb, who was always there for athletes, from the 1980s until he retired a couple of years ago. The relationship was so professional, yet relaxed, that you wanted to be part of the uvex family… and want to stay.”