By December 1998, ‘Tomba la Bomba’ had won three Olympic gold medals, had become the first person to successfully defend an Olympic title in Alpine skiing and had won 50 World Cup races.
Alberto Tomba is arguably the most flamboyant skier of all time. In addition to his outstanding skill and aggressive style in both the slalom and the giant slalom, he was an unabashed crowd pleaser on the slopes throughout his career. By the time he retired in December 1998, he had won three Olympic gold medals, had become the first person to successfully defend an Olympic title in Alpine skiing and had won 50 World Cup races.
The extrovert son of a textile millionaire, Tomba was powerfully built, yet he was lightning quick on his feet and had an instinctive feel for the slopes. His overwhelming enjoyment of the adulation that goes with success endeared him to the spectators. Both before and after a race, and sometimes even between runs, he wandered around the crowd saying hello and meeting people.
Tomba won his first medal, a bronze, in the giant slalom at the 1987 World Championships and he then burst onto the skiing scene in 1988, winning four out of five World Cup slaloms and three out of five giant slaloms. But it was during that year's Winter Olympics, in Calgary, that ‘Tomba la Bomba’ most emphatically lived up to both his reputation and his nickname as he transformed the giant slalom into a solo tour de force.
In a sport where success is usually measured in mere hundredths of a second, he romped home to victory with more than a second to spare as he clocked a winning time of 2mins 6.73 secs. In a real battle of the champions, Austria's Hubert Strolz, the combined winner, finished second and the downhill gold medallist Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland took the bronze. Tomba also won gold in the slalom to cap a memorable Olympic display.
He then made history at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, when he retained his title in the giant slalom event and also took silver in the slalom. Two years later, he again won a silver medal in the slalom at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, to become the first Alpine skier to win medals in three different Winter Olympics and the first male Alpine skier to earn five career Olympic medals. In April 2000, he was awarded the Olympic Order as an acknowledgement of his brilliant career.