What a man, what a life
25th August 2009
For a few short years in the late 1950’s he was quite simply unbeatable.
He was undoubtedly the most successful ski racer in the history of the World Championships. Between 1956 and 1958 he won seven gold medals and one silver.
He also won three Olympic gold medals at the 1956 Cortina Winter Olympics; the first man ever to do so.
He was perhaps the first ski superstar as he dominated the racing scene.
He was born Anton Engelbert Sailer on 17th November 1935 and trained initially as a tin smith before skiing took over his life. He reportedly put skis on for the first time aged two.
He had a relatively short skiing career as he retired at just 23 but in 12 years as a racer he won 170 major races. Apart from his natural ability he also used training methods and ski technique that were way ahead of their time.
He retired to persue a career as an actor and became a screen idol in Austria and as far afield as Japan.
He was nicknamed “Der schwarze Blitz aus Kitz” (The Black Bolt from Kitz) and was named Austria’s Sportsman of the Century in 1999.
In 1985 for his contribution to the Olympic Movement, the International Olympic Committee awarded him the Olympic Order.
The FIS President, Gian Franco Kasper, has paid tribute to him. “Skiing has lost a true legend. In addition to Toni’s unsurpassed sporting achievements, his commitment and passion for the sport has kept him at its forefront for more than 50 years, admired by generations of skiers from Austria and all over the world. One of Toni’s many special qualities during his 16 years as chairman of the Alpine Committee was his ability to see the woods through the trees, in the best interest of the sport,” said Kasper.
Sailer began his record-setting performance in 1956 by winning the giant slalom by 6.2 seconds. This is still the largest margin of victory in the history of Olympic Alpine skiing. Two days later he won the slalom by 4 seconds, recording the fastest time in both runs.
Video of Toni Sailer winning Giant Slalom in the 1956 Cortina Winter Olympics