Franz Klammer is one of the all-time legendsof skiing. He is considered the best-ever Downhill skier who dominated the competitions in the seventies and the eighties. His technique over an icy slope, his jumping skills and his ability to find incredible race lines remain absolutely unique.
The 1974-75 winter was practically perfect for Kaiser Franz who won eight times in World Cup giving him an aura of invulnerability as he was undefeated in his beloved DH. His successes arrived in Val d'Isere, St.Moritz, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Wengen, Kitzbuhel, Innsbruck, Jackson Hole and Val Gardena. That was also the closest he probably got to winning the Overall cup, something which eluded him throughout his career
He was born in Mooswald, Austria, on December 3,1953, and made his debut in the World Cup when he was just 19. Just one year later, in his second season in top level competition, the Klammer Express managed his first success on the home-country slope of Schladming. While in order to win his first downhill World Cup he needed twelve more months.
The 1973/74 winter was an unforgettable moment for him thanks to the gold medal he conquered in the World Championship held in St.Moritz in the combined event and the silver medal in the downhill, which gave him the belief that he capable of being a world beater in the event. In that particular championship he was beaten by another Austrian, David Zwilling.
In the following four season he dominated the Downhill World Cup, winning 22 more single races, and taking home the titles on all four occasions. He also won the combined event in Wengen on January 11, 1976 making it another special winter that saw him win 6 out of the 8 races he competed in. His skill in slalom wasn't particularly good but his victory on the Lauberhorn slope that day was so dominant that it was enough to take the combined win - a unique feat of his career.
In the golden period of his era, Klammer won also the gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games of Innsbruck when the Austrian fans went crazy for his performances. He started with number 15, the last of the first group of downhillers, and the Swiss Bernard Russi, who had started just ahead of him with number 14 seemed to have performed a difficult time to beat. But Klammer with an amazing show on the turns and the bumps of the last part of the slope of Innsbruck won with 33 hundredths over the Swiss rival.
In the early eighties he had three more successes in Val d¹Isere, Val Gardena and Kitzbuhel, and took his last and fifth downhill World Cup at the end of the 1982-83 season. In his thirteen years of career he won four times in Val Gardena, Kitzbuhel and Wengen. Incredibly he twice put together a run of nine consecutive wins in the World Cup Downhills and recorded 21 out of 29 races in the four years when he was at his top marking him as the greatest Downhill skier of all time.
He ended his career at the age of 32, and in his last appearance at the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo he only managed a tenth place.
An acrobatic dancer on the ice, a wild flyer over the bumps, able to keep himself in the run despite extreme conditions and the incredible risks he took at each bend he was an unforgettable and spectacular athlete who fully deserves to be regarded as a legend.