14th June 2022 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
He is a legend in ski racing with 26 World Cup wins. But the greatest moment of Franz Klammer’s career was that brilliant downhill gold at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics in front of a home crowd. The race is the subject of a feature film that had its UK premiere this week. Klammer was there and so was PlanetSKI’s Chief Reporter. NEW
Anyone who watched it will never forget it.
Franz Klammer, a 22-year-old Austrian ski superstar, who had won every one of his races the previous season, clinched Olympic downhill gold.
The defending champion, Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, had set an astonishingly fast time and led by more than half a second when Klammer entered the start gates.
Few then believed he could do it, but he did, cementing his place in ski racing history.
The race and the tense week-long build-up, when things did not go well for the Austrian, are the focus of the feature film, Klammer Chasing the Line.
It had its UK premiere in central London on Monday, hosted by the Austrian National Tourist Office.
Klammer and his then girlfriend – now wife – Eva are played by Julian Waldner and Valerie Huber.
Klammer’s skiing is courtesy of the American former alpine racer, Daron Rahlves.
The great man, now 68, joined invited guests and media for the showing of the dubbed English-language version of the film.
Among the audience were British former ski racers and Olympians Graham Bell, Konrad Bartelski and Chemmy Alcott, who also was the presenter for the event.
Klammer said it was strange to be a spectator at a film about him but he was happy with the way it had turned out.
“I think the movie is very well done. First of all, Eva, she likes it. That’s very important,” he said after the screening.
“It shows exactly my emotions through the whole week. It is just one week in my life but it was the most important week in my life.”
Klammer said the title of the film was well chosen as he had been chasing the right line all week in training ahead of the big day.
“I never did post the fastest time so I was really struggling and every day I was getting slower and slower and slower. …Emotions up and down… but when I got into the starting gate, I knew, I’m going to win and I think the film shows it quite well.”
He famously decided “on the spot” that he had to do something different and chose to ride the net rather than take a tight racing line as he would usually do.
It became known as the Klammer style and he is credited with being the first racer to carve the top of the turn to the bottom of the turn.
“I’m very proud about that and I’m proud that I could inspire many, many young kids to take up racing,” he said.
“They’re looking up to me and I’m the idol and I’m very proud that I could inspire many, many people going skiing.”
One of those he inspired was at the London screening.
Benni Raich is another Austrian ski racing legend with 36 World Cup wins and 14 Olympic & World Championships medals.
“I saw him – not in this race, it was ’76 and I was born in ’78 – but I remember ’84 in Kitzbühel,” Raich said.
“It was a big victory for Franz – your last one – I remember that race very well and Franz was kind of an idol of mine, I would say. He inspired me.”
But it’s the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics that will remain forever in the minds of those who witnessed it.
Whether you did or not, here’s another chance to see Franz Klammer’s winning run.