Friday, August 28, 2009

Toni Sailer dies at age 73


Toni Sailer competes during the 1956 Winter Olympics at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Courtesy photo by Getty Images.

U.S. Ski Team officials mourned the passing of one of ski racing's greatest stars.

Toni Sailer, an Austrian who swept all three gold medals at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy died Monday, Aug. 24 at Innsbruck, Austria after a long illness. He was 73. The Kitzbuehel Ski Club announced Sailer's death.

Sailer (pronounced SIGH-ler) was the first international hero in alpine ski racing. At 20, he swept every gold medal at Cortina plus the four International Ski Federation (FIS) World Championships titles.

His success in Cortina was timely, marking the first time the games were broadcast live on television. Tens of millions of viewers around the world watched as the "Blitz from Kitz" won the downhill by 3.5 seconds, the giant slalom by 6.2 seconds and the slalom by 4.0 seconds. He helped put tiny Austria on the map as the heart of alpine ski racing. In 1999, he was recognized as Austria's Sportsman of the Century.

"As an athlete, Toni Sailer brought global recognition to alpine ski racing with his Olympic gold medal sweep in Cortina along with wins at the classic races in Wengen and Kitzbuehel," said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt. "As a leader, Toni devoted a lifetime to his sport and his impact is still being felt 50 years later."

The Austrian star retired in 1959, building a career as a singer, actor and businessman. In 1993 he took on leadership of the FIS Alpine Committee, steering the sport through a great period of growth and serving as chairman until his passing. He directed the prestigious Hahnenkamm races in his hometown of Kitzbuehel from 1986 to 2005.




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