Michael Walchhofer is an example of how champions are formed not only by their natural talents but also by the technology used in an athlete's specific discipline. The downhill specialist showed more promise in his early career in the slalom, debuting in the World Cup in 1999. His talent was highlighted when his success in the slalom helped the 1m92 skier to claim the overall Europa Cup as well as individual trophy for the tight gate course in the same year. However, the introduction of carving skis prompted the man from Altenmark near Salzburg to shift his focus to the speed events. Walchhofer displayed difficulty in mastering the new shorter ski and so in 2001 abandoned his successful past for a more glorious future.
The reserved Austrian raced his first downhill in 2001 on the slopes of the venue he regards as the most challenging of them all, Kitzbeuhel, and it was at the same Austrian resort where, two years later on the January 26, he recorded his first World Cup victory, in the combined. This victory also started Walchhofer's desire to win on the slopes of all the classics - a goal which was to become his focus in seasons to come. Meanwhile, four preceding second places in the downhill allowed him to finish behind Stephan Eberharter and Daron Rahlves on the podium at the end of the season in the speed specialty.
One month after his opening win, Walchhofer displayed to the rest of the skiing fraternity the true extent of his potential with victory in the 2003 World Championships in St. Moritz. A lightning descent down the Corviglia course, aided by a strong tail wind, left his opponents dumbfounded as he completed the run half a second ahead of Kjetil Aamodt and almost a second ahead of Bruno Kernen, who completed the podium.
The following season, he climbed to the top of the podium for the first time in the World Cup downhill, at the season's opener for the speed disciplines at Lake Louise and followed it up a day later with second place in the super-G. However, it was season 2005 that Walchhofer produced his first thoroughly consistent season, finishing nearly all the downhill races on the podium, consolidated with a World Cup title in the downhill. His three victories included two classics, Garmisch and Wengen. The 2005 season was punctuated by the World Championships in Bromio, where Michael again was among the medals, a bronze in the downhill and silver in the super-G.
Olympic success in 2006 was the goal of all the top skiers, and by this time Walchhofer was regarded as one of the best in the downhill, and a poor start to the World Cup season was rectified with a double victory in Val d'Isere. The Austrian had set off over-confident and had to refocus to rediscover the winning mentality, so victory at Kitzbuehel, the most important classic for the Austrian, was the perfect tonic coming into the Turin Olympics.
However, the gold medal evaded the Austrian, finishing second behind French flyer, Antoine Deneriaz. A second consecutive crystal globe in the downhill wrapped an impressive season nonetheless.
Other wins in the following two season, including back-to-back wins over two sublime days in Bormio, were overshadowed in December 2007 when Walchhofer completed his collection of victories in the all five World Cup downhill classics, at Val Gardena, to become only the fifth skier to earn the honour. The Saslong course makes up the Italian share of the downhill classics and although Michael almost crashed at the top of the slope, he then took full advantage of his madly fast skis prepared by his ski man to win a trophy that still holds a special place in the Austrian's trophy cabinet.
In 2009 he backed up the Downhill titles previously in 2006 and 2005 by making it a hat-trick of globes. Only one victory in the entire season, at Val Gardena, may seem like little but his total of six podium finishes was enough to see him walk away with the crystal globe even though he had a scare at the start of the very last race in Are when he nearly flew off the course and put his title at risk.
His 14 victories has meant that Walchhofer has finished in the downhill top 5 in all of the past seven seasons, displaying a consistency that is he outer proof of the Austrian's impressive focus and concentration.