Klammer: `I did it because it was fun’
Austrian ski racing legend Franz Klammer is grateful to skiing, but ski fans remain grateful for Klammer, who was presented with a Spirit of Skiing award last night at the St. Regis Hotel.
The presentation kicked off the Audi Spirit of Skiing, a three-day benefit in Aspen.
Klammer, whose 25 World Cup ski racing victories make him the winningest alpine racer in history, became a worldwide sports hero after capturing a 1976 Olympic downhill gold medal in wildly dramatic fashion at Innsbruck, Austria.
“When I started skiing, I can’t remember – my mother tells me I was two years old – but I was happy all day long, she tells me,” Klammer said after accepting the Spirit of Skiing award, an engraved Piaget watch, from Audi’s CEO.
“I knew I wanted to be involved with skiing from a very young age,” he continued. “I was born in Mooswald, a farming town with ten houses; now there are eleven because I built another. But I kept skiing because I wanted to get away from farm work. I worked all summer long, but the winter was mine.”
Previous winners of the Spirit of Skiing award include 1952 Olympic giant slalom gold medalist Stein Eriksen; Dick Durrance, an Aspenite and ski industry pioneer; and Aspen local and ski clothing manufacturer Klaus Obermeyer, who attended last night’s presentation and offered up a yodeling congratulations to Klammer.
“I didn’t think I would end up doing something so special with skiing,” Klammer said. “I did it because it was fun.”
Before his downhill run in the 1976 Olympics, Klammer recalled: “I thought – either I win the race or I wipe out. But even when I won the gold, I didn’t realize how much it would mean to me. But today, I’m very grateful to skiing, it gave me so much in my life.”
Footage of Klammer’s 1976 downhill run for the gold – shown following his remarks – was met with cheers and hearty applause from the audience, still awestruck from the feat nearly a quarter of a century later.
Last night’s event attracted several ski legends, including Billy Kidd, Hank Kashiwa, Steve Podborski and Kiki Cutter, as well as celebrities Tom Skerritt, Jim Sikking and Jill St. John. The Spirit of Skiing event was founded by Aspen local Cutter, the first American ever to win a World Cup race. The weekend event benefits the Prostate Cancer Initiative and Aspen’s Neighbor to Neighbor program.
Tonight, musicians Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter will perform a benefit concert at the St. Regis as part of the fund-raiser. On Saturday, between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Aspen Mountain, the Spirit of Skiing Fun Race will be held, featuring several skiing legends.
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