Though his racing career has been plagued by injury, Italian Werner Heel always finds his way back to the top. Growing up in San Leonardo in Passiria in northern Italy, the 27-year-old is one of his country's greatest threats in speed events.
Learning to ski at 3 years old, Heel made his mark on the international race scene while he was still a child, winning the Trofeo Topolino and the Whistler Cup before joining the Italian national team in 2000. He quickly found success on the European Cup in 2001, earning his first points with a 28th place finish in the Les Orres downhill, then doubling his throttle the very next day to finish 14th. Though he nabbed a couple of top 10s and first tried his speed on the World Cup in 2001, his results were inconsistent when the onslaught of injuries began in 2002. In 2004 and 2005, despite more setbacks, Heel began finishing in the top 25 in downhill, super G and super-combined. By 2006, his best result was 17th (at the Kitzbuehel super G) but once again injuries rendered his season incomplete. Just when it seemed ridiculous that Heel could continue to have such bad luck, he was sidelined once again following a crash at Beaver Creek in 2006-07, but managed to bounce back by the end of that season, landing his first top 10 in the Kvitfell downhill. His momentum - or just sheer grit - carried into the following season - his most complete in years - when he began with a sixth place at the Lake Louise downhill and began consistently appearing in the top 15. The 2007-08 season was also when Heel finally found World Cup victory, winning the first Kvitfjell downhill and taking second in the next DH race two days later. This earned him a fifth place in the 2008 downhill standings ... but he's not done yet.
Last season was the true breakthrough for Heel. Being able to go from start to finish without any major hiccups finally enabled him to find some consistency. He kicked off with a couple of top 15s in Lake Louise, followed up with another in Val Gardena, slipped a little bit but rocketed back with another victory, this time in the Val Gardena super G. Barring a few DNFs and a misplaced non-scoring result in Wengen, Heel found a rhythm for the remainder of the season that took him back into the top 10, then the top five, then another victory ... closing out the season with a super G win at World Cup finals in Are. In the end, he came out second in SG standings and 16th overall.
Once the Rossignol racer is off his skis, especially if the weather is dry and warm, you might find him mountain biking, eating Nutella or McDonalds. He also admires Bud Spencer and Terence Hill and of course supports Italian soccer.