Alberto Tomba, famously known as Paul, was the dominant technical skier in the late 1980s and 1990s. With three Olympic gold medals, two World Championships, and nine World Cup season titles: four in slalom, four in giant slalom, and one overall title, he was popularly called Tomba la Bomba ("Tomba the Bomb"). Here are some very interesting facts about the Italian ski racer:
Tomba has to his credit 50 World Cup wins which 35 in slalom and 15 in giant slalom. He also claimed 28 second place and 11 third places finishes in 13 seasons of World Cup.
He was born on December 19, 1966, in Bologna, Italy, to Franco Tomba and Maria Grazia Tomba. He has an older brother and a younger sister
His father is wealthy textile businessman had promised him a Ferrari if he won a gold medal in the Olympics. After his win in Giant Slalom in the 1988 Olympics he announced his preference for a red Ferrari to his father and the TV audience.
His final victory in the Slalom at the World Cup finals in Crans Montana of 1998 makes him as the only male Italian skier to win at least one race per year for 11 straight seasons.
In 1998 he and his father were indicted for allegedly failing to pay taxes on 23 billion lire, which Tomba earned from sponsorship between 1990 and 1996.
He was under constant pressure being in the media spotlight. He was accused of assaulting photographers who violated his privacy, including throwing a trophy at one photographer, karate-kicking another. He was sued and paid a fine to settle the suit.
In January of 1995, after winning the Giant Slalom at Kranjska Gora, Slovania, instead of making outrageous self-congratulatory remark, he dedicated his win to the victims of the war going on in Bosnia.
In 2000 he fulfilled a long time aspiration of becoming an actor, when he starred in an Italian TV action movie called ‘Alex l’ariete.’
Tomba lost the chance to win the 1991 World Cup as a result of a bizarre scandal at Lake Louise, Canada. He was accused of bad behavior and knocking a female skier and was not allowed to compete unless publicly apologized.
From the beginning he was known to be eccentric. At the world skiing championships in 1987, where he won the Bronze medal in the giant slalom, he earned extra money by washing cars between races, despite his family being extremely wealthy.
His father was keen skier himself and went out of his way to induce the interest in his sons. He drew his two sons Alberto and his older brother Marco to Sestola, 60 miles away so that they could ski.
As a child he was good at several sports like, tennis, soccer, and dirt biking, but his exposure to skiing at early age of three helped him decide his course forward.
He started racing at the age of seven and at the age of 14, he qualified for the Italian team at the unofficial children’s world championship known as the Topolino.
Tomba made everyone take notice of him when he finished fourth at the 1984 Junior World Championships. By virtue of this performance he made it to national ‘B’ team.
In 1985, he won three European Cup events and also made his World Cup debut at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, just days short of his nineteenth birthday.
At the beginning of 1986 season, participating in the Are championship in Sweden, he made a huge impact finishing creditable sixth.
He finished on the podium for the first time at the age of 19, when he came third on the brutal Alta Badia giant slalom course and qualified for 1987 World Championship at Crans-Montana, Switzerland, where he finished third being the only medalist for Italy.
He started the 1987-88, season with a victory in first two races at Sestriere, Italy. He won the Slalom and followed this with victory in Giant Slalom defeating his idol, the great Ingemar Stenmark, by a mere 0.09 seconds.
He ended the year winning the World Cup title in both Slalom and Giant Slalom when he won nine races out of eleven. He finished runner-up to Pirmin Zurbriggen for the overall title with 281 points.
At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, in the Giant Slalom with a 1.14 second lead after the first runs, was good enough to win the Gold Medal defeating Hubert Strolz of Austria. He went on to win his second Gold Medal in the slalom with his customary ‘Tomba charge’ in the second run to win by 0.06 seconds.
In 1990, at the world cup race in Val-d’lsere, France, he crashed in the Super-G race and broke his collarbone and was put out of action. He had promised his mother that he would avoid the more dangerous downhill races and realized this after this accident.
In the 1991-92, season-long event of FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, he won the titles in the Giant Slalom with 520 points and the Slalom with 820 points. With nine victories and fifteen podiums, Tomba once again finished runner-up overall with 1362 points to Paul Accola’s 1699.
Tomba became the first alpine champion to successfully defend his Olympic title when he won the Giant Slalom at the 1992 Winter Olympics. He also won a Silver medal in the Slalom race.
After lackluster performance in 1993, he was back to his usual ways with a Silver medal in the Slalom race at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. After the first run, he was hopelessly placed 12th with 1.84 seconds behind the leader, but recovered in the second run.
In the 1995 world cup season he reached pinnacle of his career when he won the overall World Cuptitle to take home the Crystal Globe back to Italy after twenty years. He won eleven victories including seven in a row to tally 1150 points.
He finally won two Gold medals which eluded him at the 1996 Alpine World Ski Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain. He won one each in Giant Slalom and in Slalom.
After contemplating retirement he decided to make one last attempt in the 1997 World Championship in Sestriere, Italy. He was disqualified in the Giant Slalom and had poor first run in the Slalom. As was his habit he made an excellent second run to earn a Bronze medal.
In October 1998, at the age of 31, he announced his retirement after winning his fiftieth career victory in the season.
Tomba had the honor of brining the Olympic Flame in to stadium at the start of 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Turin.
In January 2011, he was awarded the ‘Excellence Guirlanded’ Honneur 2010’ for his significant role in sports by FICTS.