Posted: Friday February 10, 2006 12:01PM; Updated: Monday February 13, 2006 3:55AM
The retired Alberto Tomba is still a major star in Italy.
Italy's Alberto Tomba is arguably his country's most famous Olympian. The three-time Alpine skiing gold medalist -- who turns 40 on Dec. 19 -- is the favorite to light the torch at the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night. SI's Brian Cazeneuve recently caught up with the man the Italians call "La Bomba."
SI: Tell me something that will surprise spectators about Turin?
Tomba: They will get the warmest welcome ever.
SI: What were your thoughts about Bode Miller's recent comments that he skied drunk? Have you ever done that?
Tomba: Bode is only in a difficult moment right now. It happens to every great athlete. I know from my experience that in these cases, it is not simple to face the pressure, and sometimes things get exaggerated. But he's a good guy, and a talented skier. He already made his official statements, so let's just watch him race now during the Olympics. Not too much Bode, though, hopefully an Italian will be first.
SI: Does Giorgio Rocca have any Alberto Tomba in him? Does he have your style and flair?
Tomba: Giorgio is Giorgio. Maybe he is similar to me in body shape, but he has his own way to ski, to win, and to face the race. He's a good friend of mine. But I think that the comparison with my victories and my long career can put too much pressure on him. Let's celebrate him as another Italian athlete, with his own personality and determination to become a champion.
SI: You won five Olympic medals (three gold and two silver) and are recognized worldwide. What is the most unusual place under which someone asked you for an autograph or wanted to shake your hand?
Tomba: Inside the bobsled simulator in Piazza Solferino in Torino while I was there for an Olympic event this year. Only the darkness around, the 3-D movie, and a fan's pen
SI: Americans love Italian food. What's your favorite American food?
Tomba: I spent a lot of time in the U.S. first for World Cup races, and then with my ski tour, the Tomba-tour. I love steak, and you have very good quality meat in the U.S. I remember all of the typical restaurants with grilled beef. That is the best way to maintain the flavor and taste.