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Throwback: Klammer delights home crowds with victory at hazardous Innsbruck

Franz Klammer of Austria skiing in the Men's Downhill event of the Alpine Skiing World Cup on 3rd March 1979 in Lake Placid, New York, United States.  (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)


Under pressure

February 5, 1976

Franz Klammer was scheduled to start as the 15th and final seeded skier in the downhill at the Olympic Winter Games Innsbruck 1976.

The then World Cup champion in the discipline, he had arrived at his home Games in scintillating form with victories in all three of the preceding World Cup races, including the downhill’s jewel in the crown, Kitztbühel.

But that favourite tag combined with a hugely expectant public, piled the pressure on Klammer, who was just 22 at the time and had only been ski racing for eight years.

Bernhard Russi had set a breathtakingly fast time on the course of 1:46.06 seconds, so Klammer, crouched in the starting gate, knew he had to take risks in order to go for the gold.


The Run

Greeted by deafening roars at the side of the mountain from start to finish, Klammer’s run looked ragged from the outset, the Austrian seemingly on the precipice of disaster with every twist and turn on the course.

Defying the treacherous and icy conditions on a hazardous course, he somehow managed to keep upright on two skis to the finish.

When he crossed the line, his time was 0.33 seconds quicker than that of Russi and, with only slower skiers to come, he knew the gold was his.

Selfietime with two legends #franzklammer #fritzstrobl # #servusalpenpokal

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He raised his arms aloft in celebration before being mobbed by the delighted crowds at the foot of the mountain.


A benchmark for the ages

Klammer had averaged nearly 64mph for the duration of his run, his time an astonishing 32 seconds quicker than the run by Egon Zimmermann on the same course to win another gold for Austria at the 1964 Olympics.

His remarkable run was a performance that warranted him a place on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Klammer was unable to defend his title four years on, failing to make the ever-competitive Austrian Olympic team, and was a disappointing 10th at his final Games appearance in 1984. He retired the following year.


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