Category Archives: Alpine skiing

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.

 

USA Event Factsheets for 12 February – Wednesday

Universal participation is rare at the Winter Olympics

At the Summer Olympics, the IOC requires representatives from every continent in each sport. Even in team sports, where only between 8 and 16 teams can take part, there’s always a team from Africa, Asia, Europe,  North America, Oceania and South America represented – although in some cases the two Americas are considered a single continent (this depends on the federation that governs the sport). At the Winter Olympics though, having all six continents compete in the same competition is quite rare.

This is not very surprising. After all, winter sports are originally – and still mostly – a thing for the rich and white, preferably from nations that have snow. This was adequately reflected by the list of participants in the inaugural Winter Olympics: North America and Europe were the only continents represented. South America (Argentina) and Asia (Japan) joined the Winter Olympics in 1928. Oceania became the fifth continent in 1936 (Australia) and South Africa was the first African nation in 1960.

The first time competitors from all six continents lined up at the start for the same Winter Olympic event was in 1968. In the men’s giant slalom, 101 skiers from 33 nations took part, including 4 Moroccans providing the “rare” African Winter Olympians. The slalom, held some days later, also saw all continents represented.

Since 1968, there have regularly been alpine skiing events with all six continents represented: in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010. With the exception of 1992, all of them were men’s events. In Albertville, the women also had three events with all continents, Oceania being the least represented continent (through Australia’s Zali Steggall).

The Albertville Games also marked the first time when a different sport than alpine skiing had the honor of six continents at the start. In two men’s cross country skiing events (the 10 km  and the pursuit), this also happened. In Vancouver, the men’s 15 km was similarly universal.

In Sochi the list of sports with universal representation will not expand. Most likely, there will be some alpine skiing and cross country skiing events in which all six continents are represented (event start lists are not yet available, so we cannot be certain yet). It is not strange that this only happens for those two sports: they are the only winter sports for which any country can qualify a competitor (although they’re subject to some qualifying demands). It’s possible that in the future figure skating may join the list of competitors.  South America is represented in that sport for the first time since 1908, and South Africa (previously already represented) did competed in the 2012 Worlds.

USA Sports Factsheets

We’ll now deviate a bit for a few days. To date, all of our posts have been somewhat “general,” giving information about athletes or interesting facts from all nations. The Factsheets by sports that were posted were also general, with data for all nations and all athletes.

For the next few days, I will include USA-oriented Factsheets by sports, for our US Media. After we finish this (hopefully by Wednesday, 22 January), we will return to more general information.

Entries close for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games tomorrow, the 19th January. Thus the next set of information to be sent out will be Factsheets by nations. We will be publishing information for every NOC competing in Sochi, as well as those who have previously competed at the Olympic Winter Games, but will not be attending.

Today, the USA Factsheets will be for the “Big Medal Sports” – Alpine Skiing, Figure Skating, and Speed Skating – the sports in which US Winter Olympic teams have won the most medals, by far.

Alpine Skiing – Factsheets

Olympic History:          Alpine ski racing is the newer form of ski racing, as Nordic, or cross-country, competitions were held in the Scandanavian countries for many years before alpine racing was developed.  The first known race was in 1911 at Montana, Switzerland, when the British organized a race for a challenge cup given by Lord Roberts of Kandahar.  The first slalom style race was held in 1922 at Mürren, Switzerland.

Alpine skiing was first placed on the Olympic program in 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  The only event that year was a combined competition of both downhill and slalom.  In 1948, this was held along with separate downhill and slalom races.  Alpine combined was not contested at the Olympic Winter Games again until 1988 when it returned to the Olympic program.  In 1952, the giant slalom was added as an event, and in 1988, the super giant slalom (Super-G) became a fourth separate event, with combined the fifth event when it returned to the program. In 2010 (and 2014), the traditional combined of downhill and two slalom runs was replaced by the super combined, consisting of a shortened downhill (or Super-G) and a single slalom run.

Men and women contest alpine skiing separately.  Events for both sexes were held in 1936, and have been held at all Olympics since.  Interestingly, the program for men and women has been identical at all Olympics.

As of November 2013, there are 120 member nations affiliated to the FIS.  This makes it the largest International Sporting Federation for any winter sport.  The FIS governs what it terms six disciplines of skiing – alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding.  Cross-country, ski jumping, and Nordic combined are often termed one sport of nordic skiing.

The 120 member nations of FIS are as follows: Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, DPR Korea (North), Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Marocco, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.