Alpine World Championships were once held during the Olympics

On Tuesday the World Alpine Skiing Championships get underway in Colorado (USA) towns of Vail and Beaver Creek. From 1948 through 1980, no World Championships in the sport were held in Olympic years, with the Olympic races doubling as World Championships – except for the combined event. This event, which has been on the Olympic Program again since 1988, did produce a World Champion, but not an Olympic Champion. Who are these Olympic “champions”?

Gustavo Thöni (center) twice won the “Olympic” combined event, in 1972 and 1976. He also won three Olympic medals at these Games.

After the combined event was held in both 1936 and 1948, it was abandoned in 1952 to make room for the new giant slalom competition. But as it was still held at the regular World Championships (which were held in even years between Olympics), the combined event returned in 1956. However, it was never an actual event – no separate races were held – but instead conducted on paper only. Based on weighting factors and the time behind the winner of each race, the skiers were awarded points, with the lowest total winning (this format was later replaced by a simpler format with finishing times simply added up). Another difference with the present-day combined event is that it also included the giant slalom, not just the downhill and the slalom. From 1956 through 1980, the medal winners in these events were:

Year Gender Gold NOC Silver NOC Bronze NOC
1956 Men Toni Sailer AUT Charles Bozon FRA Stig Sollander SWE
1956 Women Madeleine Berthod SUI Fieda Dänzer SUI Giuliana Chenal-Minuzzo ITA
1960 Men Guy Périllat FRA Charles Bozon FRA Hans-Peter Lanig GER
1960 Women Anne Heggtveit CAN Sonja Sperl GER Barbi Henneberger GER
1964 Men Ludwig Leitner GER Gerhard Nenning AUT Billy Kidd USA
1964 Women Marielle Goitschel FRA Christl Haas AUT Edith Zimmermann AUT
1968 Men Jean-Claude Killy FRA Dumeng Giovanoli SUI Heinrich Messner AUT
1968 Women Nancy Greene CAN Marielle Goitschel FRA Annie Famose FRA
1972 Men Gustav Thöni ITA Walter Tresch SUI Jim Hunter CAN
1972 Women Annemarie Möser-Pröll AUT Florence Steurer FRA Toril Førland NOR
1976 Men Gustav Thöni ITA Willi Frommelt LIE Greg Jones USA
1976 Women Rosi Mittermaier FRG Danièle Debernard FRA Hanni Wenzel LIE
1980 Men Phil Mahre USA Andreas Wenzel LIE Leonahard Stock AUT
1980 Women Hanni Wenzel LIE Cindy Nelson USA Ingrid Eberle AUT

Many of these are not surprising winners, as Sailer, Killy, Mittermaier and Wenzel medalled in all three events. Others, however, are not known as Olympics heroes. Ludwig Leitner, for example, did not reach the podium on any of the Olympic events, but did achieve three top eight positions. The 1972 bronze medallist, Jim Hunter, didn’t place in the top 10 in any of the three races.

Hanni Wenzel won both of Liechstein’s only two Olympic titles to date in 1980, and could have won a third one if the combined event would have had medal status at the time.

 

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