Updated May 21, 2020 08:53
The sheer madness
A clever teacher, an extra shift for the photographers, an unplanned overtaking maneuver: memories of thirteen memorable moments during the Lauberhorn races in Wengen.
1930: The fast-paced British woman at the premiere
No Swiss or Austrian ranks 17th. No, a British woman! At the Lauberhorn premiere, the lady, of whom only the surname Carroll has survived, leaves around 20 male competitors behind. It is the time when the spectators are very close to the track. And you don’t even know equality from hearsay. The newspaper “Sport” writes: “We make no secret of the fact that this sport is not the sport of women.”
1939: Abbreviation thanks to a school class
The evening before the race, a Wengen teacher contacted Karl Molitor. Together with his students, he piled a 150-meter shortcut on the route. The official helpers were busy cushioning the trees with mattresses from the surrounding hotels. Where the others have to make a right turn, the local hero should go straight to the gate. He doesn’t hesitate long and accepts the immoral offer. He falls with his 220 cm long wooden slats, but he gets up and wins. With a lead of 9 seconds.
Nobody is allowed to know their names. Because they were interned as refugees in Mürren during the Second World War. And so six Italians start under pseudonyms such as «Blitz», «Donner» or «Schilthorn». “Blitz” meant Zeno Colò, who finished the descent in third and later won the Olympic and World Cup gold.
1965: The somewhat premature photographer
Dominator Karl Schranz has already given interviews with winners. But suddenly the fog clears; when Stefan Sodat starts with number 30, the sun is shining. The Austrian drives a sensational best time – and presents the photographers with problems. They packed their seven things long ago. Which is why Sodat is asked to walk up to Ziel-S again so that pictures can be taken.
1970: Two runs at the same time
No kidding: when Walter Tresch starts his first slalom run with number 78, the second round already takes place on the slopes next door. So many drivers are registered that the runs overlap in time. Also no joke: Most of the spectators watch the young Swiss who start late, but not the best who compete for victory in the second run.
1976: The birth of the Canadian Corner
The downhill drivers have to make a 180-degree turn after the dog’s crest. The curve after the Minsch edge, which has to be turned in flight, is fatal to Dave Irwin and Ken Read. The Canadians risk a lot, are whirled through the air and tumble towards the Wengernalpbahn. They end up in the hospital with concussions – the passage has since been called the “Canadian Corner”.
1980: Peter Müller in the baggage car
In the first of two downhills, Peter Müller is on a victory course. But he makes a mistake shortly before the finish, only fourth. The disappointment is huge, even with the media. A journalist reacts briskly, Müller says after the interview that he now feels like the biggest pipe. 24 hours later he takes the train to Kleine Scheidegg, because the wagons are overcrowded, he sits in the open baggage car despite the strong wind. With his head lifted, he starts – and wins.
1985: The Portuguese without a rear-view mirror
Not everyone is competitive in downhill training. This is felt most clearly by Connor O’Brien. The Canadian-born is driving to Estonia, the home of his mother, after changing nations. He is only allowed to leave last and is clearly behind the best. And yet he succeeds uniquely: O’Brien, today a million-dollar top manager, catches up with the startled, completely puzzled Portuguese Luis-Felipe Santos-Marques. Fortunately, there is no collision.
1987: Zurbriggen alone in the wide field
It is a World Cup victory that is presented on the serving tray: All-rounder Pirmin Zurbriggen wins the combination. Whereby in and of itself is the last. Because: He is the only driver in the classification. Only the Valais registered for the downhill (9th place) and the slalom (10th). Why the discussions about the meaning and nonsense of the two-part series start.
1991: The worst day
The ski world is in shock: In the qualification training for the downhill that was still on the program at that time, Gernot Reinstadler canted in the finish S and flies unchecked into the safety net. A ski tip gets caught in what the 20-year-old Tyrolean suffers from a split in the pelvis and serious injuries in the abdomen. The following night he dies, all races are canceled. As a result of the accident, cut-proof tarpaulins are developed and the Wengen jump in target is massively defused.
2007: The clever Austrians
In the combined downhill, Mario Matt is only 34. And yet he can open the slalom because Austria’s officials smell the roast and help their contender: Hermann Maier and Georg Streitberger, like two other competitors, do without the zigzag run. For his part, Matt uses the perfect slope, which should later be hardly manageable, and actually wins. Quite a few speak of a scandal race. Soon the rule will be changed – if you do not rank in the top 30 on the downhill, you can no longer move up.
2007: The “Füdliblutte” Austrian
Slalom specialist Rainer Schönfelder is in severe pain after a fall the previous week, he wants to leave Wengen early, but his physiotherapist pulls a last ace out of his sleeve. He uses special manual therapy. And Schönfelder promises: “If it helps, I’ll drive down the mountain naked tomorrow.” Betting debts are honor debts; Because the downhill training is canceled due to the heat break-in, the Austrian drives down next to the piste, only with a helmet on his head. A photographer takes the picture of his life, it is even printed in Japan and Mexico, in Cyprus and in the USA. As a punishment, Schönfelder gets a day of social work. He is celebrated by his fans.
2017: A certain back man at the forefront
Combination again, unfair conditions again: due to capricious weather, the slalom takes place before departure. Zurich-based Niels Hintermann, who came from 21st place as the best World Cup result, is 23rd. In the end, he wins. In front of “greats” like Maxence Muzaton and Frederic Berthold. Because of the snowfall, the descent to the total lottery deteriorates, the organizers have to take a lot of criticism.
2020: Feuz for the third
Beat Feuz finally crowned himself king of the Lauberhorn with his third victory in the descent after 2012 and 2018. He even jeopardizes his health for the third triumph. He does not wear a splint on his left hand during his home race to protect his broken metacarpal bone. Because the start is moved down, the 32-year-old needs all his strength for the flat start. “That is definitely not recommended, I would not do that in every race, but I risked it.”
(phr / erh)