Buddy Werner

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Buddy Werner
Personal information
Full name Wallace Jerold Werner [1]
Born (1936-02-26)February 26, 1936
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Died April 12, 1964(1964-04-12) (aged 28)
Trais Fleur slope
near St. Moritz, Switzerland
Height 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)

Wallace Jerold "Buddy" Werner (February 26, 1936 – April 12, 1964) was an American alpine ski racer in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Early years[edit]

Born and raised in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Werner and his siblings were accomplished skiers, and competed in both alpine and Nordic events on Howelsen Hill.[2] Werner raced for the University of Colorado in the mid-1950s, making the 1956 Olympic team in his sophomore year, joining his elder sister, Skeeter Werner.

Ski racing[edit]

Werner was selected for the U.S. Olympic Team three times: 1956, 1960, & 1964. While still a teenager, he placed eleventh in the downhill in 1956 at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, and was the only American to finish. His best chance to medal was in 1960 at Squaw Valley, but he broke his right leg while slalom training in Aspen in December 1959, just two months before the games.[3]

Eleven months earlier at age 22, he was the first from outside Austria and Switzerland to win the famed Hahnenkamm downhill race in Kitzbühel, Austria.[4][5] The only American to win since was Daron Rahlves in 2003, on a fog-shortened course.[6] Three Canadians, Ken Read, Steve Podborski, and Todd Brooker, have won the race,[5] and American A. J. Kitt was a runner-up in 1992.[6]

Werner finished in fourth in the slalom at the 1958 World Championships in Austria at Bad Gastein.[7] He took fifth in the giant slalom, and was challenging Toni Sailer for the combined title with only the downhill event remaining. In contention for a medal in the downhill, Werner fell a few seconds before the finish.[8] He lost a ski and a pole and eventually crossed the finish line, but was fourteen seconds back in a distant 37th place, which knocked him down to seventh in the combined standings.[9][10] (From 1954 through 1980, the combined event at the world championships was a "paper race" which used the results of the three events, a pseudo-"overall" title.) After missing the 1960 Winter Olympics, Werner returned to the world championships in 1962 at Chamonix, France. He again finished fifth in the giant slalom[11] and also eighth in the downhill,[12] but did not finish the second run of slalom, which knocked him out of the combined.[13]

At the 1964 Olympics at Innsbruck, Werner placed eighth in the slalom at Axamer Lizum, behind teammates (and medalists) Billy Kidd and Jimmie Heuga, and 17th in the downhill at Patscherkofel. Although Werner never won an Olympic or World Championship medal, he is considered the first world-class ski racer from the U.S. and excelled in all three alpine disciplines.[14][15]

World Championship results[edit]

  Year    Age   Slalom  Giant
 Slalom 
Super-G Downhill Combined
1956 19 DNF1 21 not
run
11
1958 21 4 5 37 7
1960 23
1962 25 DNF2 5 8
1964 27 8 DSQ 17

From 1948 through 1980, the Winter Olympics were also the World Championships for alpine skiing.
At the World Championships from 1954 through 1980, the combined was a "paper race" using the results of the three events (DH, GS, SL).

Death[edit]

Following the Olympics, the 1964 racing season concluded March 22 at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Winter Park, Colorado,[16] and Werner retired from competition at age 28 and started a new career. Three weeks later he was in Switzerland with more than a dozen others to film the ski movie Ski-Fascination for Willy Bogner.[14][17] Werner and German racer (and Olympic medalist) Barbi Henneberger, age 23, were caught in an avalanche on the Trais Fleur slope, near St. Moritz. Both skied out of the first avalanche, but were caught up in another; their bodies were found hours later, deaths attributed to suffocation.[18][19][20][21]

Bogner, 22, and Henneberger were to be engaged that summer;[22] he was tried by a Swiss court for homicide by negligence.[23] Initially acquitted,[24] the prosecution later won a conviction on appeal, of manslaughter by negligence,[25] and Bogner received a two-month suspended sentence.[26]

After a memorial service in Denver, Werner was buried in his hometown of Steamboat Springs, at the city cemetery at the base of Howelson Hill.[27][28] Coach Bob Beattie and teammates from the U.S. Ski Team were pallbearers.[29]

Personal[edit]

Werner was married to Vanda Norgren, the daughter of Denver industrialist C.A. Norgren, and they had no children.[17] He was scheduled to complete his bachelor's degree at the University of Colorado in June 1964,[21] and co-owned a ski shop with his sister Skeeter at the base of the fledgling Steamboat Ski Resort.[2][21]

Legacy[edit]

Werner was posthumously inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame later that year.[30] Storm Mountain, the primary mountain of the new Steamboat Ski Resort in his hometown, was renamed Mount Werner in his honor in February 1965. "Buddy's Run," which starts at the top of Storm Peak on Mount Werner, features a statue honoring Werner near the beginning of the run. He was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1977.[31]

The city library in Steamboat Springs was named for Werner in 1967.[32] The Buddy Werner League is a national youth ski racing program, similar to Little League for baseball.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Who was Buddy Werner?". Bud Werner Memorial Library. Retrieved December 1, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Phillips, Autumn (January 12, 2003). "Werners became first family of Steamboat". Steamboat Today. Retrieved April 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Bud Werner breaks leg in practice". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. December 13, 1959. p. 2-sports. 
  4. ^ "Werner winner in downhill race". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. January 18, 1959. p. 3B. 
  5. ^ a b "Hahnenkamm champions, men, downhill". Kitzbüheler Ski Club. Retrieved April 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "American gets win at Kitzbuehel". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. January 26, 2003. p. 9D. 
  7. ^ "Rieder top man in world slalom". Ottawa Citizen. Associated Press. February 3, 1958. p. 10. 
  8. ^ "Sailer ski champion". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. February 10, 1958. p. 2b. 
  9. ^ Wernick, Robert (February 17, 1958). "Bad day at Bad Gastein". Sports Illustrated: 40. 
  10. ^ "Brilliant windup by Toni Sailer". Ottawa Citizen. Associated Press. February 10, 1958. p. 11. 
  11. ^ "Zimmerman leads Austrian ski sweep". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. February 16, 1962. p. 13. 
  12. ^ "Chris Haas, Kranz win gold medals". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. February 19, 1962. p. 11. 
  13. ^ "Swift French star wins world slalom". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. February 14, 1962. p. 14. 
  14. ^ a b "Winter races are recalled as skier dies". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. April 13, 1964. p. 16. 
  15. ^ Thomas, Tommy (April 4, 1968). "Skier's luck was all bad". Times-News (Hendersonville, NC). NEA. p. 12. 
  16. ^ "Jean Saubert makes sweep in nationals". (Bend, OR) Bulletin. United Press International. March 23, 1964. p. 6. 
  17. ^ a b "U.S. ski ace buried in avalanche". Victoria (TX) Advocate. Associated Press. April 13, 1964. p. 1. 
  18. ^ "The Man with No Luck". Sports Illustrated: 15. April 20, 1964. 
  19. ^ "Ski star killed racing avalanche". Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. April 13, 1964. p. 1. 
  20. ^ "Fate finally put finger on Buddy Werner". Lewiston Evening Journal. Associated Press. April 13, 1964. p. 10. 
  21. ^ a b c "Tragedy stuns Bob Beattie". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. April 13, 2012. p. 10. 
  22. ^ "German skier not to blame for 2 deaths". Montreal Gazette. Canadian Press. August 29, 1964. p. 2. 
  23. ^ "Deaths of skiers said homicide". Spokane Daily Chronicle. United Press International. June 8, 1964. p. 2. 
  24. ^ "German skier acquitted of negligence". Vancouver Sun. United Press International. August 31, 1964. p. 11. 
  25. ^ "German convicted of manslaughter". Eugene-Register Guard. Associated Press. April 1, 1965. p. 1D. 
  26. ^ "German skier found negligent". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. March 31, 1965. p. 2. 
  27. ^ "Funeral rites for Werner". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. UPI. April 16, 1964. p. 52. 
  28. ^ "Werner buried near slopes of ski start". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. April 18, 1964. p. 2, part 2. 
  29. ^ "Ski team attends Werner rites". Deseret News. UPI. April 18, 1964. p. 4A. 
  30. ^ "List of inducted members". National Ski Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 7, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Buddy Werner". Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. 1977. Retrieved April 7, 2014. 
  32. ^ Ross, Tom Date=March 13, 2013. "Library builds on Buddy Werner's place in Steamboat Springs history". Steamboat Today. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 

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