HAKUBA, Japan -- Germany's Katja Seizinger is skiing's woman of steel, an unapproachable and nearly unbeatable racer on snow.
She hates revealing any part of her personal life. Yet she loathes being known simply as the daughter of a millionaire business magnate from Germany's flat, industrial heartland.
Seizinger is a racer, pure and simple, who demands to be judged by the times she records and the championships she wins.
At the 1998 Winter Olympics, Seizinger is out to sweep the field.
She'll enter all five Alpine events, beginning with the super-G, to be held here, weather-permitting, tomorrow morning (tonight in the United States).
If she gets on a roll, she could win three races, from the danger of the downhill to the speed and precision of the combined. Even if she doesn't, she'll be a dominant force in every discipline.
Are five races too much for this hard-driving 25-year-old?
"Why not?" she said. "I'm still young."
And she is still skiing's best performer. This season, she has claimed eight World Cup titles -- four downhills and four super-Gs. At one point, she won six in a row, tying a record held by Jean-Claude Killy.
"Katja is the fastest in the super-G and the downhill," said Seizinger's German teammate, Hilde Gerg. "Even if she doesn't win the super-G, she'll still go for the downhill. She's really fast."
The other German women are also fast on the slopes, racers like Gerg and Martina Ertl.
Are they the best team in the Games?
"Second-best," Gerg said. "The best is the men's Austrian team."
The Austrian men may be led by Hermann Maier, who has been nearly unbeatable for this season. But the leader of the German team, Seizinger, has been among the elite for far longer, with 36 career World Cup wins.
Her Olympic career stretches back to the 1992 Games in Albertville, France, where she claimed the bronze in the super-G. At the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway, she took spills in the super-G and giant slalom but won the gold in the downhill.
"The third Olympics is different than the first," she said. "The first time, it's a big thing to join the Olympic team."
The skiers didn't even go to the opening ceremonies.
"We have no time for a parade," one of the team coaches said.
When speaking of Japan, Seizinger is quick to choose her words carefully. In the past, she has criticized the Japanese skiing venues for the unpredictable weather, the wet snow and even the accommodations that were once filled with International Olympic Committee members rather than the skiing superstars.
"That was last season," she said. "We don't have any more problems."
Except, of course, the weather.
Like the other Europeans, Seizinger would rather skate on a hard, icy surface.
"The snow here is pretty wet," she said. "It isn't so hard at the moment. That's the problem. We prefer the harder conditions. Perhaps here you've got different favorites."
She'll duel with Gerg in the super-G and the combined. She'll be an outsider at best against Italy's Deborah Campagnoni in the giant slalom and Sweden's Yiva Nowen in the slalom.
But the best rivalry of all is in the downhill, where Seizinger will meet America's Picabo Street. They're competitors on the hill, friends away from the races.
"We want to have a good race," Seizinger said.
With that, she was out the door. Skiing's woman of steel was ready for work.
Pub Date: 2/09/98