Legends in the snow – 10 historic skiing heroes

02/23/2016 - Selina Sauerland

The international top of the ski sports used to be dominated by outstanding skiers with names like Franz Klammer, Hermann Maier or Toni Sailer. Today, it is sporting idols like Lindsey Vonn and Felix Neureuther that grab hold of the trophies. SnowTrex pays tribute to 10 old and new skiing heroes who have achieved incredible milestones in the history of winter sports.

Felix Neureuther at his historic victory in Madonna die Campiglio. Next to Fritz Dopfer (left) and Jens Byggmark. © Nordica


One of Austria’s greatest skiing legends is without a doubt Franz Klammer: the former Carinthian ski racer achieved a total of 25 downhill victories between 1973 and 1984 and triumphed five times as downhill World Cup winner. That makes him the most successful racer in this discipline in World Cup history and one calls him “Emperor Franz” ever since. That particular World Cup run in Bad Kleinkirchheim has been named after him, “Kärnten-Franz Klammer”, and has a 35 degree slope gradient.

The Germans also have their skiing record holder: Felix Neureuther from Garmisch-Partenkirchen achieved his tenth World Cup victory in the night slalom in Madonna di Campiglio in December 2014. No other German before him managed this, thus making the 31-year-old the reigning champion in German World Cup history. And who knows, he might break his own slalom record again this season!

In January 2015, US-American star Lindsey Vonn set a new world record which was previously held by the Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll for a whole 35 years. Vonn achieved her 63rd World Cup victory at the Super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, which puts her one win ahead of the former Austrian “World Sports Person of the Century”. But Moser-Pröll is first on the list in other categories: she was six times overall World Cup Winner and won Gold five times as downhill World Champion. Our respect!

The Hahnenkamm race is known as one of the most difficult ski races in the world, and Kitzbühel as one of the most important ski resorts. Six outstanding ski racers call this place home, they are known as the “Ski Prodigy Team of Kitzbühel”. The charismatic Toni Sailer is the most well-known and most venerated of them. The “first skiing sports World Star” won 50 FIS races. The other prodigies are Anderl Molterer (*1931), Ernst Hinterseer (*1932), Miathias Leitner (*1935), Christian Pravda (1927-1994) and Fritz Huber (*1931). These champions were pioneers of skiing as we know it today, they celebrated several successes throughout their careers and were known as the sports prodigy team throughout the 1950’s.

The Austrian Hermann Maier has not only made a name for himself through his successes but also through the stories behind those successes. The most spectacular took place at the Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998, when Maier competed in the downhill race and had a terrible accident in a curve. It was a miracle that he didn’t get injured. Only three days later did he achieve Gold in the Super-G race. Later, Maier admitted that it was a difficult decision to take part in the next race, but everything went well and he received the legendary nickname “Herminator”. After two Olympic Gold medals, three World Champion titles and four overall World Cup victories, he ended his career in 2009.

Muscle-packed, tanned, charismatic and successful: the Italian Alberto Tomba was the celebrated “pop star” among ski racers in the 1980’s and 90’s. The eccentric “sunny boy” was said to have affairs and he was a media favourite. But that was also because of his great success stories: 50 World Cup victories, three times Olympic Gold winner and two World Cup titles in giant slalom make Tomba the third most successful ski racer of all times.

The Polish cross-country sports has a definite star: Justyna Kowalczyk. She was the first Polish woman to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing and also achieved four overall World Cup victories. She is double Olympic Champion (2010 and 2014), making her one of the most successful Polish cross-country skiers in sporting history. Her participation in the 10 km classical run in the 2014 Sotchi Olympics secured her a place on the list of cross-country legends as she mastered it bravely despite a bone fracture and won Gold.

Without the Swedish sports person Jan Boklöv, ski jumping wouldn’t be what it is today. He is known as the creator of the V-jumping style, which he apparently invented by accident in training. The uplift that was generated in this position made Boklöv fly a few meters further than his competitors, but the judges gave him bad scores for posture in the “Victory-Pose”. Some time later, the committee realised that the ski jumpers achieved better results with the V-style and hence officialised this style in 1990, putting an end to the parallel jumping technique era.

Anton “Toni“ Innauer was Austria‘s ski jumping idol in the 1970’s. He was the first in ski jumping history to receive the best grade, which is a 20, five times for performing perfect flights. In 1982, at the age of only 22, his career came to an abrupt end when he had a bad jumping accident. Later he became sports director of the Austrian Skiing Association and published a book about his career, in which the “sports philosopher” reviews ski jumping from a more critical angle and says that he didn’t want to be seen as a (national) hero. He will always remain one for ski jumping though.

Michael Edwards is probably the worst ski jumper of all times, even though he so desperately wanted to compete in the Winter Olympics for his home country England. The “talent-free” but keen Brit did indeed take part in the Olympics in Calgary 1988, where he came in last with a flying distance of only 71 m. The media called him “laughingstock of the nation”. But Eddy had fulfilled a childhood dream, true to the motto ”participation is what counts”. He received the nickname “Eddy the Eagle“ and despite his terrible sports performance he became a cult figure in his home country. His incredible story will actually hit the cinemas in 2016 with Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken starring in the film “Eddie the Eagle”.

For further information, pricing samples and printable graphic material please contact:

TravelTrex GmbH Selina Sauerland press-uk@traveltrex.com Phone: +44 20 336 533 13

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  • Tuesday, 23. February 2016
  • author: Selina Sauerland
  • category: Press
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