Toni Sailer is a former Austrian skier, who was the first to win gold medals in all three Alpine skiing events namely Downhill, Slalom and Giant Slalom at the Winter Olympics in 1956 held at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. He became the fifth athlete ever to have won three old medals at the same Winter Olympic Games.
Anton ‘Toni’ Sailer was born on November 17, 1935 in Kitzbuhel, Austria. This skier, considered by many as the best ever in sport history, was hence was nicknamed ‘Blitz from Kitz’ standing for ‘Lightning from Kitzbuhel’ – his native land.
Gold medal after gold medal
He won his first race in France when he was 17 years of age. His talent and skill was beginning to get noticed as early as in the year 1952. In 1955, he found himself a place in the Austrian Alpine skiing team. Soon after, in 1956 he went on to create history by his tremendous three gold medal victory at the Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Olympics.
His Olympic victories were unprecedented and absolutely exceptional owing to the fact that he won the Giant Slalom by 6.2 seconds, Slalom by 4 seconds and Downhill by 3.5 seconds, something that has never seen ever since in such high level competitions.
His timing for the Giant Slalom event created a new world record and still is the largest margin of victory in the history of Olympic alpine skiing; this remains unconquered to this day. His Slalom event win in 4 seconds was the fastest too.
His Downhill event was possibly as unnerving as it was thrilling – less than 15 minutes before commencement of the event, when Toni tightened the straps that fastened his boots to the skis, one of them broke and he did not have a spare strap with him.
Fortunately, Hansl Senger, Trainer of the Italian team was kind enough to lend him his own strap. While on the race itself, Sailer survived a near spill and won the race. After the award ceremony, he gave one gold medal each to his parents and kept one for himself. All this when he was all of 20 years of age!
He shone again, in the 1958 World Championship, held at Bad Gastein in Austria, by winning three gold medals in the events Downhill, Giant Slalom and a combination event. He however, could not claim gold for the Slalom event.
Sailer retired in 1959, and took up a brand new career in the field of showbiz – he was well suited to this thanks to his athletic build and smashingly handsome looks. His performance made him a hero in Austria and an international star. Added to this, his innate artistic talent also saw him take up the role of a singer and recorded for Polydor Records.
He formed part of over 20 films and even had a cartoon character created based on him. These movies that he worked on were filmed between 1957 and 1971, in Europe and Asia, most of them shallow comedies, set purposefully and at least partially in Alpine regions so that Toni Sailer could showcase his skills at skiing.
In 1964 he played the lead role in F. Hollander’s Film-Operetta: ‘Das Blaue von Himmel’ with Swedish Super Star Zarah Leander. Other popular roles he has appeared in are in the movie Das Grosse Gluck released in 1975 featuring Gunther Phillip and Hans Jurgen Baumler., Vertigine Bianca a.k.a. White Vertigo released in 1956, Skifascination released in 1966, and television episodes of Verliebte Ferien in Tirol in the year 1971 and Volle Kanne dated January 10, 2006.
Sailer authored a few books including ‘Ski with Toni Sailer’ published in 1967. In 1972 he was appointed trainer of the Austrian alpine skiing team, he held this post of head Trainer and Technical Director of the Austrian Skiing Association till the year 1976. He also pursued skiing in Banff, Canada and Japan.
The International Olympic Committee awarded him the Olympic Order for his contribution to the Olympic Movement, in 1985. In January 2004 Sailer, though not associated with any political party, announced that he would contest for the post of Mayor of Kitzbuhel. He however, a few weeks later he withdrew his candidature, saying he had only then realized that being Mayor was a full-time job and that he did not have that much time at hand to spare.
In 2006 he announced to retire as chief of race of the Hahnenkamm Race, a position which he had occupied for 20 years.
- 1956 Olympic Games – Gold (3)
- 1956 World Championships – Gold (4)
- 1958 World Championships – Gold (3), Silver