KORBEL LEGENDS RACE
Former Olympic, World Cup and World Champion skiers compete on Vail’s Golden Peak racecourse during the Vail Beaver Creek 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships on Wednesday, February 11 at 1:30pm (MST) to prove that they’ve still “got it.”
Kjetil Andre Aamodt
Legend of Honor
Aamodt is one of the most decorated alpine skiers in history. He is the only alpine skier to win 8 Olympic medals, along with 5 World Championships gold medals, as well as 21 individual World Cup events. An all-round skier, Aamodt participated in all five alpine skiing disciplines and is one of only five male skiers in history to have won a World Cup race in Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and Combined. His combined career total of 20 World Championship and Olympic medals is an all-time best. He is the youngest alpine skier to win an Olympic gold medal and also the oldest alpine skier to win a gold medal. He became the first Alpine skier in the history of the Olympic Games to win four gold medals following his win in Torino in Super-G. Crowned the 1994 overall World Cup champion at the World Cup Finals in Vail, Aamodt also claimed a gold medal in Combined and a bronze in Downhill at the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships.
Legend of Honor
In February of 1999, Norway’s Lasse Kjus pulled off one of the most remarkable feats in the history of alpine skiing when he medaled in all five events at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek. Prior to that feat, a trio of skiers had previously earned four medals at a single World Championships (Toni Sailer of Austria in 1958, Marielle Goitschel of France in 1966 and Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland in 1987), while Sweden’s Anja Paerson made it a quartet at the recently completed World Championships in Are, Sweden. He started off his historic World Championships tied with Austria’s Hermann Maier for gold in super G, which also marked the first time in Championships history that there had been a gold medal tie. Four days later, in the Downhill, Kjus settled for silver, 0.31 seconds behind Maier, while in the Combined, he narrowly missed his second gold, finishing in silver-medal position only 0.16 seconds behind teammate Kjetil Andre Aamodt. With momentum building, Kjus captured gold in the Giant Slalom, and then finished off his remarkable run two days later with silver in his weakest event, Slalom. He missed winning all five gold medals by a combined total of slightly more than half a second (0.58 seconds). Most impressively, he performed the feat while suffering from a chest infection which had dogged him all winter and often left him coughing and wheezing at the bottom of courses. A two-time overall World Cup champ (1996 & 1999), Kjus owns a total of 16 Olympic and World Championships medals, ranking him second in career medals behind Aamodt. He recorded a total of 18 career World Cup victories, including a Super-G win in Vail in 1995 and a Giant Slalom victory on Birds of Prey in 2004. He retired from competition following the 2006 season.
Kilian was born in Austria and has represented both Austria and Bulgaria on the FIS World Cup Tour and at the Winter Olympic Games. His two podium appearances on the World Cup came in the form of a pair of runner-up slalom performances in Kitzbuhel in 2000 and Sestriere in 2002. He just missed medals at the 2002 Salt Lake Games with a fourth place showing in the Olympic slalom.
With the Vancouver games marking his fourth Winter Olympics, Buechel’s best results in five Olympic starts came at the 2006 Torino Games, when he finished sixth and seventh in the Super-G and Downhill, respectively. A veteran of six World Alpine Ski Championships, Liechtenstein’s Buechel captured the silver medal in Giant Slalom at the 1999 Worlds in Vail and Beaver creek. During the course of his 14 years on the World Cup, he claimed a total of four victories, two in Downhill and two in Super-G.
Unusual for a top Swiss Alpine skier, Didier Cuche is a native of the Jura, better known for its Nordic disciplines, but he was discovered and nurtured by national coach Patrice Morisod. The Trained as a butcher, Cuche made his Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano Games and, in his second race, the men’s Super-G, he and Austrian skier Hans Knauss shared the same exact time down the course. Although they were beaten by Hermann Maier, they both earned silver medals, marking the first time in men’s Olympic Alpine history that no bronze medal was awarded. During the course of his 16-year career, Cuche notched a total of 21 World Cup wins and six discipline titles, while also posting 6 top-three Overall World Cup rankings. Wherever Cuche competes, he is a consistent fan favorite, largely because of his flashy post-finish routine that began by mistake. Before he comes to a complete stop, he releases his right ski with the tip of his pole and kicks it into the air, where it does a full, 360-degree rotation before he grabs it and hoists it into the air triumphantly. “When I won the giant slalom in Adelboden in 2002,” says Cuche, “I wanted to just open the back buckle to let the ski go with a kick and let it slide on the snow. The front buckle was still in there and the ski flipped back and I caught it. I tried a few times and now it goes really easy.” When Cuche won the Super-G at the 2009 World Championships in Val d’Isere, France, he became the oldest champion ever at 34 years, 172 days, at a World Championships or Olympics.
Michaela Dorfmeister wrote her own page in the Olympic history books 2006 at the Torino Games, bring down the curtain on a glittering career, with an unprecedented Downhill and Super-G gold medal double, a feat never achieved before by a man or woman. The girl from Vienna battled the best in the business before finally landing her first major honor in 2001 at the World Championships in St. Anton, Austria when she raced to the Downhill gold on an all-Austrian podium that also included Renate Gotschl and Selina Heregger. The result marked the second consecutive Austrian Downhill sweep at the World Championships, along with the 1999 Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, although in that race, Dorfmeister settled for second place behind Gotschl. One year earlier, Dorfmeister picked up her first Olympic medal, landing silver in the Super-G in Nagano in 1998. Following her 2001 breakthrough and a 2002 Salt Lake Games in which she failed to pick up a medal of any color, Michaela showed her bounce-back-ability, producing some of her best skiing and finishing the that season as Overall World Cup Champion. A few weeks following the Torino Winter Games, Dorfmeister left her competitive skis on the rack for good, retiring from the sport at 33 with a list of honors that included three Olympic medals (2 gold, 1 silver) and four World Championships medals (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze). In addition to the 2002 World Cup Overall, she also racked up five World Cup discipline crystal globes, courtesy of 25 World Cup career victories.
A ten-year member of the U.S. Ski Team, Fleischer hails from that hotbed of ski racing… Nebraska. A two-time Olympian, Fleischer captured the 1996 and 1999 U.S. national Downhill titles and earned the runner-up position in Downhill at the 1999 World Cup Finals. One of his most memorable career highlights came in his own backyard in the form of a sixth place showing Super-G at the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships on Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey course.
One of the greatest four-event skiers of all times, Luxembourg’s Marc Girardelli ranks fourth in career World Cup victories with 46, trailing only Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, Austria’s Hermann Maier and Italy’s Alberto Tomba. Although born in Austria, Girardelli switched federations when he was twelve years old when his father Helmut decided that he was not getting the proper attention from the Austrian team. From a World Cup standpoint, he won the season-long overall title a record five times, unmatched on the men’s tour, with only the legendary Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell recording six career overall crowns.
These days, Austria’s Hans Knauss is known as the “Kamerafahrer”, the person who shows the Alpine World Cup courses with a camera for ORF TV. He knows many of those courses very well, racing on them as a member of the Austrian National Team during the course of his 13-year career. A member of the Austrian World Junior Championships team in 1988 and 1990, Knauss made his World Cup debut in 1992, racking up a total of seven career World Cup victories, while twice finishing in the runner-up position in the chase for the season-long Super-G World Cup title. Hans was selected for the Austrian Olympic squad in Lillehammer in 1994 and Nagano in 1998, winning a silver medal in Super-G in Japan. In addition, he claimed a pair of World Championships medals with a bronze in Vail and Beaver Creek’s 1999 Championships Super-G, while adding a silver medal in Giant Slalom in 2003 in St. Moritz. The 1999 medal was part of history as his teammate Hermann Maier and Norway’s Lasse Kjus tied for the win, the first gold medal tie in a World Championships, while Knauss was just 1/100th of a second from making it a three-way tie. Following his retirement in 2004, Hans turned to motor racing, which he had dabbled in during his skiing career. He raced at mid-levels from 2005-08, winning an international 100-mile race in a Lamborghini, while finishing second in a Porsche at the 2007 International Czech Endurance Championship. His brother, Bernhard Knauss, was also a top ski racer on both the World Cup and professional circuits and competed for Slovenia at the Nagano Games.
Janica Kostelic became a true legend at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake, claiming a record three Alpine gold medals, a feat only equaled by the greats Tony Sailer and Jean-Claude Killy. The good natured Croatian collected wins in the Giant Slalom, Slalom and Combined events to go along with a silver in the Super-G. She would go on to write her own page of history four years later when the Games moved to Torino, mining her fourth gold medal and sharing the accomplishment of Norwegian Kjetil-Andre Aamodt, who had become the first skier to win four career Olympic titles just 20 minutes earlier. Had her career not been cut short at the age of only 25, due to numerous knee operations and a declining physical condition, including thyroid surgery, Kostelic would certainly have racked up more records. She first made her debut on the World Cup circuit in 1997 as a confident competitor who appeared certain of her destiny. A serious knee injury in 1999 almost put an end to those dreams but driven on by her father and coach Ante, a former professional handball player, she clawed her way to the very peak of the ski racing elite. Nine years later Janica’s skiing legacy is a trail of success, with 6 Olympic medals (4 gold, 2 silver), 5 World Championships titles and a trio of Overall World Cup crowns, courtesy of 30 individual career wins. Kostelic also distinguished herself by becoming one of only five women to win World Cup races in all five disciplines.
Koznick was the youngest American woman ever to compete in a world Cup event, having been named to the Ski Team at 15. She separated from the USST to train and compete on her own from 2001-2003 and would enjoy her best World Cup season in 2002, ending the winter in 2nd place in the Slalom rankings. Koz ended her career at the conclusion of the 2006 campaign with a total of six World Cup Slalom wins and five U.S. National Slalom titles.
A triple Olympic medalist at the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, Austria, Mittermaier claimed the gold in Downhill and Slalom, while mining silver in Giant Slalom. She also collected an FIS World Championships gold medal in Combined at the Innsbruck Games. Mittermaier missed the Olympic hat trick by a mere 12-hundredths of a second as Canadian Kathy Kreiner spoiled the celebration with the Giant Slalom gold. The 1976 campaign proved to be equally special for Mittermaier as she also earned the season-long World Cup overall crown, in addition to her Olympic exploits. During the course of her World Cup career, she posted a total of ten wins, eight in slalom and one in Giant Slalom, along with a Combined victory. After that incredible season, “Gold Rosi” gave up World Cup competitive skiing and in 1980 married slalom champion Christian Neureuther. The parents of two children, son Felix Neureuther is a current member of the German World Cup technical team. A three-time Olympian, Mittermaier is now a member of the German National Olympic Committee.
Drawing inspiration from two legendary skiers, Vreni Schneider and Ingemar Stenmark, Paerson, who like Stenmark hails from Tarnaby, Sweden, has climbed to the same heights as her heroes, tasting victory in all major competitions at all levels. During the course of her 14-year career, Anja recorded a total of 42 World Cup victories, capturing the Overall crystal globe in both 2004 and 2005. A veteran of three Olympic Games, Paerson mined gold in Slalom in 2006, while capturing one silver and four bronze Olympic medals along the way. Her World Championships stats include a total of seven individual gold medals, one silver and three bronze. With her trio of gold medals at the 2007 World Championships in Are, Sweden, Anja became the first skier in history to win World Championships gold in all five disciplines.
The most successful Finnish male alpine skier in history, Palander won a gold medal in Slalom on the final day of the 1999 World Championships in Vail. Durin the course of his 14-year career, Kalle recorded a total of 14 World Cup victories, 10 in Slalom and 4 in Giant Slalom. His first World Cup win came in 2003, a season in which he would record four victories to claim the World Cup Slalom title. He struggled to regain his form following an injured knee suffered at the 2007 World Championships, retiring from the World Cup circuit in 2012.
A 14-year veteran of the Wolrd Cup wars, Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg is one of only a handful of racers to have won World Cup events in all five disciplines (Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, and Combined). In fact, “Pila” ended her illustrious 13-year career with a total of 24 World Cup victories and the 1997 overall World Cup crystal globe. In the big events, Wiberg was equally stellar, winning a career total 6 World Championships medals, including the gold in Combined and the silver in Slalom in the Vail Valley’s 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships, as well as a trio of Olympic medals that included a Giant Slalom gold in Albertville.