Franz Klammer

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Franz Klammer
— Alpine skier —
Franz Klammer (Gala-Nacht des Sports 2009).jpg
Franz Klammer in 2009
Disciplines Downhill, Giant Slalom,
Combined
Born (1953-12-03) 3 December 1953 (age 60)
Mooswald, Carinthia, Austria
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
World Cup debut December 1972 (age 19)
Retired March 1985 (age 31)
Olympics
Teams 2 – (1976, 1984)
Medals 1 (1 gold)
World Championships
Teams 5 – (197485)
includes 1976 Olympics
Medals 3 (2 gold)
World Cup
Seasons 13 – (197385)
Wins 26 – (25 DH, 1 K)
Podiums 45 – (41 DH, 1 GS, 3 K)
Overall titles 0 – (3rd in 1975, 1977)
Discipline titles 5 – (5 DH: 197578, 1983)

Franz Klammer (born 3 December 1953) is a former champion alpine ski racer from Austria. Klammer overwhelmingly dominated the downhill event for four consecutive World Cup seasons (1975-78). He was the gold medalist at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, winning the downhill at Patscherkofel by a margin of 0.33 seconds with a time of 1:45.73. He won 25 World Cup downhills, including four on the Hahnenkamm at Kitzbühel.

Background[edit]

Born into a farming family in Mooswald, Carinthia, and like many alpine farm boys, Klammer skied at school each winter day. He had a tough struggle to make the Austrian ski team, traditionally dominated by the states of Tyrol and Salzburg. He spent 13 seasons on the World Cup circuit, from December (1972 to March 1985.

Career[edit]

Klammer first showed signs of promise in the second half of the 1973 World Cup season, finishing second in the St. Anton downhill behind Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, the reigning Olympic and World Cup downhill champion. Klammer, age 19, followed this up with a third at St. Moritz and a third in the giant slalom at Mont Sainte-Anne. The following season he finished second in the downhill standings behind Roland Collombin of Switzerland, his nemesis that season. After beating Collombin and Russi at Schladming in December 1973 under terrible conditions, Collombin bested him at Garmisch, Avoriaz, and Wengen. In December 1974, Collombin fell at Val-d'Isère, as he had the previous year. This time Collombin broke his back in a training run, unfortunately ending his promising career. Klammer won that race and every other downhill that 1975 season, except Megève, where one of his skis came off; without this incident, he would have won the overall World Cup title in March 1975, due to a good slalom result two days before at Chamonix, which would have granted him at least a third place (15 points) for the AK-combined of slalom Chamonix / downhill Megève. In the Olympic tune-up run at Patscherkofel at Innsbruck in January 1975, Klammer had defeated defending Olympic champion Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, the runner-up, by nearly a half-second.[1]

Entering the 1976 Winter Olympics, the 22-year-old Klammer was the favorite to take the gold medal in the downhill at Innsbruck in his native Austria. He was the defending World Cup downhill champion, and had won the three previous downhills in January at Wengen, Morzine, and Kitzbühel, and also won the previous year's race on the same Patscherkofel course. Starting in 15th position, Klammer was the last of the top seeds, and knew that Russi had set a blistering pace and led by over a half-second. Klammer took heavy risks on the treacherous piste, skied on the edge of disaster, and won by 0.33 seconds to the delight of the Austrian fans. A dozen years earlier on the same course in 1964, Egon Zimmermann posted a 2:18.16 to win the gold medal; Klammer's 1:45.73 was more than thirty two seconds faster.

Although he dominated the downhill event in World Cup competition, the overall title remained elusive, because the technical specialists had two events in which to earn points (slalom & giant slalom) whereas a speed specialist had only one. The second speed event, the Super G, was not a World Cup event until December 1982, at the twilight of Klammer's World Cup career.

At the end of the 1975 season, despite having won 8 of 9 downhills, he finished third for the overall World Cup title. The final event was a parallel slalom and Klammer lost in the first round. Italy's Gustav Thöni defeated Sweden's Ingemar Stenmark in the finals and won his fourth overall title in five years; Klammer finished fourth overall in 1976, third in 1977, and fifth in 1978.[2]

Klammer won the World Cup downhill title five times: 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1983; twice more than the next best downhiller. In the 1975 season he won 8 of 9 World Cup downhill races, including his first of three consecutive victories (1975–77) on the prestigious Streif on the Hahnenkamm at Kitzbühel. He won a fourth in 1984, at the age of 30.

After his fourth consecutive season title in downhill in 1978, he began a prolonged slump until the end of the 1981 season. He may have been affected by his brother's spinal cord injury in a downhill race, as well as a change of ski supplier (from Fischer to Kneissl). Unable to make the strong four-member Austrian downhill team for the 1980 Olympics, Klammer could not defend his Olympic title at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Rather than retire, he worked long and hard at a comeback; finally in December 1981, after another ski change from Kneissl to Blizzard, he won at Val-d'Isère. The following season he regained the World Cup Downhill title, his fifth, followed by the 1984 victory at Kitzbuehel, his fourth on the Hahnenkamm. At the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, (then Yugoslavia, now Bosnia), Klammer finished a disappointing tenth on a less-than-challenging course on Bjelašnica. The race was won by the brash Bill Johnson of the U.S., an excellent glider who had recently won his first World Cup race on a shortened course at Wengen. Johnson had promising training runs and publicly predicted his Olympic victory. Klammer had been involved in a controversy with Johnson when he described him to a teammate as a "nasenbohrer" after he won a race earlier in the season. The term is slang in some German speaking areas for a rookie but its literal translation is "nose picker."

At his peak (Wengen 1976 to Wengen 1977), Klammer won ten consecutive downhills, including the spectacular, pressure-laden win at the 1976 Olympics. He won 8 of 9 during the 1975 season and also won 19 of 23, 20 of 26 and 21 of 29 downhills. His career total is 26 downhill wins: 25 World Cup and 1 Olympic. These achievements mark him as arguably the greatest downhill racer ever: Karl Schranz achieved 20 wins over an extended career while Klammer won 19 in less than three seasons.

In an interview with Austrian television in 2006, the 52-year-old Klammer was asked about his greatest achievement. He answered that although his gold medal at the Olympic Games in Innsbruck was generally regarded as his greatest career achievement, winning at Kitzbühel in 1984 meant something very special to him, considering he hadn't won there since 1977.

His final World Cup race was in March 1985 at Aspen, Colorado; he retired from international competition at age 31.
Klammer finished with 26 World Cup victories, 45 podiums and 87 top ten finishes (71 downhill, 5 combined, 11 giant slalom).[3]

Motor racing[edit]

Immediately after his retirement from alpine competition, Klammer took up motor racing, and was soon involved in touring car racing, driving Mercedes-Benz saloons all over Europe and racing professionally as far away as Australia. In 1990 Klammer won a round of the prestigious European Touring Car Championship.[4]

Legacy[edit]

Klammer was a hero to Austrian ski racing fans and also to fans the world over for doing a great deal to promote the popularity of alpine ski racing. He is known as "The Kaiser" and also as the "Klammer Express."

In an interview with Tom Brokaw that aired on NBC on February 13, 2010, as part of their 2010 Winter Olympics coverage, American Olympian ski racer Bode Miller cited Klammer's style and approach to skiing as a major source of inspiration for him.

Klammer has established the Franz Klammer Foundation, which benefits seriously injured athletes.[5]

World Cup results[edit]

Season titles[edit]

Season Discipline
1975 Downhill
1976 Downhill
1977 Downhill
1978 Downhill
1983 Downhill

Season standings[edit]

Season Age Overall  Slalom  Giant
 Slalom 
Super G Downhill Combined
1973 19 8 9 not
run
4 not
awarded
1974 20 5 10 2
1975 21 3 9 1
1976 22 4 1 4
1977 23 3 1 not
awarded
1978 24 5 1
1979 25 51 19
1980 26 33 11
1981 27 40 13
1982 28 14 5
1983 29 18 not
awarded
1
1984 30 20 4
1985 31 52 16

Race victories[edit]

Season Date Location Discipline
1974 22 Dec 1973 Austria Schladming, Austria Downhill
Switzerland 1974 World Championships
1975 8 Dec 1974 France Val-d'Isère, France Downhill
15 Dec 1974  Switzerland  St. Moritz, Switzerland Downhill
5 Jan 1975 West Germany Garmisch, West Germany Downhill
11 Jan 1975  Switzerland  Wengen, Switzerland Downhill
18 Jan 1975 Austria Kitzbühel, Austria Downhill
26 Jan 1975 Austria Innsbruck, Austria Downhill
9 Mar 1975 United States Jackson Hole, USA Downhill
21 Mar 1975 Italy Val Gardena, Italy Downhill
1976 12 Dec 1975 Italy Madonna di Campiglio, Italy Downhill
10 Jan 1976  Switzerland  Wengen, Switzerland Downhill
11 Jan 1976 Combined
17 Jan 1976 France Morzine, France Downhill
25 Jan 1976 Austria Kitzbühel, Austria Downhill
Austria 1976 Winter Olympics
12 Mar 1976 United States Aspen, USA Downhill
1977 17 Dec 1976 Italy Val Gardena, Italy Downhill
18 Dec 1976 Downhill
8 Jan 1977 West Germany Garmisch, West Germany Downhill
15 Jan 1977 Austria Kitzbühel, Austria Downhill
22 Jan 1977  Switzerland  Wengen, Switzerland Downhill
18 Feb 1977  Switzerland  Laax, Switzerland Downhill
1978 11 Dec 1977 France Val-d'Isère, France Downhill
11 Mar 1978  Switzerland  Laax, Switzerland Downhill
1982 6 Dec 1981 France Val-d'Isère, France Downhill
1983 20 Dec 1982 Italy Val Gardena, Italy Downhill
1984 21 Jan 1984 Austria Kitzbühel, Austria Downhill

World championship results[edit]

  Year    Age   Slalom   Giant 
 Slalom 
Super-G Downhill Combined
1974 20 20 10 not
run
2 1
1976 22 DNF1 1
1978 24 5
1980 26  —^
1982 28 7
1985 31 5

From 1948 through 1980, the Winter Olympics were also the World Championships for alpine skiing.

Olympic results Olympic rings with white rims.svg[edit]

  Year    Age   Slalom  Giant
 Slalom 
Super-G Downhill Combined
1976 22 DNF1 not
run
1 not
run
1980 26  —^
1984 30 10

^ Klammer was an alternate on the 1980 team and did not compete.

Video[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Sports Illustrated - cover - 16-Feb-1976 - Franz Klammer - 1976 Winter Olympics
  • Sports Illustrated - 21-Feb-2003 - Franz Klammer
  • Books with references and insights into Franz Klammer's career:
    • "White Circus" by Ken Read/Matthew Fisher
    • "On the Edge" by Currie Chapman/Randy Starkman

References[edit]

  1. ^ FIS-ski.com - Innsbruck - 1975-01-26 - accessed 2010-03-06
  2. ^ FIS-ski.com - World Cup season standings - Franz Klammer - 1973-85 - accessed 2010-03-06
  3. ^ Ski-db.com - Franz Klammer - results - accessed 2010-03-06
  4. ^ laureus.com
  5. ^ Franz Klammer Foundation - (German) - benefits seriously injured athletes - accessed 2011-01-08

External links[edit]



Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Austria David Zwilling
Austrian Sportsman of the year
1975 – 1976
Succeeded by
Austria Niki Lauda
Preceded by
Austria Armin Kogler
Austrian Sportsman of the year
1983
Succeeded by
Austria Peter Seisenbacher