Sunday Information – Franz Klammer

Posted on Sun 04/17/2011 by


This video shows what is probably one of the greatest single achievements in the history of Sport.

To say that is a huge call, because there have been just so many truly great sporting achievements, over the long time that any sport has been played anywhere in the whole World.

I have previously detailed another of those great sporting achievements, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 Point Game, in the Post at this link.

In a time when sporting achievements cover long periods of time, this immense achievement takes barely one and three quarter minutes.

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This video was posted to You Tube by franzwebberinc

For me as an Australian to class this as one of the greatest is also something, because Winter Sports in the snow are not something Australians are known for, as this is a Country with such a hot Climate, even in those Winter months, and we have very little in the way of snow resorts, and because of that we don’t have very much history when it comes to Winter Snow Sports, although that has changed in recent years.

In fact, it was a pretty rare thing for any of these Winter Sports to be even shown on TV in the years prior to the 80’s.

The very first time a Winter Olympic Games was telecast here in Australia in any great length was the 1976 Winter Olympic Games held in Innsbruck in Austria, (not Australia, which looks and sounds similar) and even then most of the broadcasts were delayed for prime time TV, and virtually none of them were taken live, until some years later. One of the Australian Networks took the coverage on relay from the Olympic Broadcasting center.

It was probably the first time most Australians had seen any of these Winter Sports, and such was the case for me. I had heard of them, but there was very little, if any TV reports at length on any of the Sports.

I liked the figure skating and the speed skating for the technical ability. I also liked some of the alpine events, as they always looked so dangerous, especially the Ski Jump. I was not all that keen on either of the Slalom events, but as soon as I saw the first Downhill Run, I was hooked. Here was an event of extreme skill and incredibly high speed, considering they were only on skis barely inches wide.

This was an event where you had one shot only. You had to put it all together for just the one short run, not a four quarter game over 100 minutes, not a whole season, just one short run. No second chance.

The Downhill has now become pretty passe almost, although you still have to stay upright, and fast, but the ‘Sliders’ have taken over now.

Stay in the tuck position as long as possible. Try to be airborne for as little as possible, and keep both of the skis on the snow also for as long as possible.

This was epitomised in Sarajevo by Bill Johnson, in the time when the sliders started to take over, and that’s not meant to detract from the great Bill Johnson, but from then on the die was set.

It’s still a thrilling event, but after watching Franz Klammer’s run, every other Downhill run fades into the background.

Imagine Klammer at the top of the run.

It’s his home Country, his home ski run, and he’s quite obviously the crowd favourite, affectionately known as ‘The Kaiser’. He’s the last guy to ski in the top ‘seeded’ section of skiers, so all his main opponents already had their time on the board.

This is it. His one chance.

The Downhill had only been part of the Olympics since 1948, and this was only the 8th time it had been run in the Olympics. There had been 25 medallists, (one tie for Bronze) and no one had won more than one medal, and even now, after 17 events, only three skiers have won more than the one medal, with 17 separate winners of the Gold Medal.

Defending Olympic champion Bernhard Russi from Switzerland had set was an absolutely blistering time, more than half a second faster than any other skier, when one tenth of a second was all that separated most of the skiers. While Russi’s time was nearly six tenths better than the next time, less than one second separated the next ten skiers. For Klammer to even get close to Russi’s time called for something extraordinary.

He had practiced on the slope, and being his home Country slope, probably many times, so he knew the course well. He knew what he had to and where he had to do those things in areas that might have given him trouble.

A top class sportsman in his field knows that to have any chance, then something like this has to be done with control. He knows what to do, and how to keep that control.

Klammer took off, and this one run is now looked upon as one of the most dramatic Downhill ski runs of all time. During the next 106 seconds, very little of that time does it look like he is in control.

The sliders came later, but here, Klammer spends very little time in the tuck position, and an awful lot of time in the air, mostly way outside the envelope. He was wide on most of the corners, in fact nearly into the hay bales on a number of occasions. In some of those times he was airborne, probably every other skier would have crashed. Klammer keeps it together. There are times when only one ski is in contact with the snow. His arms are all over the place. This is skiing, not close to, or even at the ragged edge. Klammer is way beyond that ragged edge for nearly all of the run.

His one chance.

Known for his speed at the bottom of the course, that counts for nothing if you don’t get close to the bottom of the course, and Franz looks likely to crash many times over.

At each of the intermediate times he is behind.

The only time he is ahead of the clock is when he crosses the finish line.

This was one of the most desperate Downhill ski runs in the history of the sport.

He left nothing in the tank. He put it all out there, and he held it together, although no one knows just how he did that, and if the truth is told, the 22 year old Klammer himself probably does not know himself how he completed that run.

But complete it he did. His one chance.

I mentioned that single tenths of a second separated skiers. Even though Klammer was behind at every one of those Intermediate times, when he crossed the line, he had beaten Russi’s time by more than three tenths of a second, so his speed over that bottom section of the course must have been phenomenal.

Klammer dominated the Downhill circuit for four years from 1975 until 1978.

He won 25 World Cup Downhill events, and this included 9 consecutive victories, each of those setting a new best time for the course on that Mountain.

He was a 5 time World Cup Champion, 4 of those consecutively as well.

For the whole 1972 season, he averaged 111KPH (70MPH) something not approached until it was broken in 1997, 25 years later. That’s a feat on its own because you have to finish to have a time recorded, hence an average speed from that run, and then to achieve this for the whole season is something that is quite remarkable indeed.

Klammer has a lifetime achievement that is remarkable of itself.

However, this one run makes this one of those all time greatest sporting achievements.

Franz Klammer took his one chance and risked everything.

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