"In December  the shoulder popped out when I was asleep," Girardelli says. "It made such a tremendous noise that my brother, who was sleeping in the same room, woke up. We tried to put it back in but were unable to. My father came and got it in again, but then I passed out because the pain was so terrific." This continued to happen "maybe eight or 10 times. My father became very skilled at putting it back. The season began to seem like a catastrophe."
The pain was so intense that Girardelli considered giving up skiing. Then he heard about Mohamed Khalifa, an Egyptian nerve specialist who lives near Salzburg, Austria. "Khalifa can feel the nerves with his thumbs." says Girardelli. "When he treats me, it is as if he pulls a wire through my nerves." The treatments worked miraculously—though briefly—for the 1987 world championships at Crans-Montana in Switzerland. Girardelli won the gold in the combined, plus silvers in the Super G and the giant slalom. And he won the last World Cup race of the season (a GS in Sarajevo) in March. But the pain and the popping out continued during his postseason training, so in late April, he went to Steadman once more. This time he underwent a five-hour operation to stabilize his shoulder.
Girardelli says he's now without pain, and his skiing seems to indicate that. Though he had not won a World Cup race by early January, he had skied well in downhill training runs and had had good intermediate times in slalom races. As Calgary closes in, Girardelli and Switzerland's Pirmin Zurbriggen (page 46) are heading toward an across-the-board showdown. "Only Zurbriggen and I are in all events," says Girardelli. "The others are specialists." So, is there a chance that either you or Zurbriggen will win five gold medals? "No. It's the same for Zurbriggen as for me," Girardelli replies. "One event always suffers when you are doing so many." Is your goal to defeat Zurbriggen? "No. I want to beat myself by doing better than ever before. Zurbriggen and I don't know each other well. It's difficult to have much of a liking for each other."
Whatever happens at Calgary, Girardelli's first Winter Games, the new citizen of Luxembourg is looking beyond ski racing. He's planning to enroll in a university to study advanced physics. "I would like to become an astronaut." he says, "but I am too old. At least they can find out what a man's body can endure." Many people think Girardelli has gone a long, long way toward doing that in his skiing career.