50 Years World Cup: The great tradition of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Located in the middle of the Bavarian Alps not far from the Zugspitze (2,962 m), Germany’s highest peak, the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is by far the most famous and visited winter sports resort in the country – and surely one of the most populated with its 26,000 permanent inhabitants. Romans already lived in that area connected to the former Empire by the crucial ‘Via Raetia’ going over the famous Brenner Pass. The district strongly grew in the Middle Age as it became an important transit place for merchandises as well as travelers moving from Augsburg to Venice. Tourists from everywhere started to enjoy the beautiful region when it was connected to Munich by train at the end of the 19th Century.
In 1935, the by-then-independent locations of Garmisch and Partenkirchen were forced by the Government of Berlin to merge in order to better organize and promote the 4th Winter Olympics well known by ski historians for the fact that the official program (finally) also included alpine skiing – in fact only an ‘Alpine Combined’ for women (first Olympic appearance) and men.
Already famous since 1922 for its now traditional New Year Ski Jumping event, the location also become an interesting stage for alpine ski racing in the early 1950s after tourists discovered the nice runs located south of the town on the ‘Kreuzeck’ slopes already developed for the 1936 Olympics. A ropeway had already been built there in the mid 1920s – attracting immediately visitors and trekkers in the summer and skiers in the winter.
By 1954 – in the same time as the now famous ‘Four-Hill Turnaments’ began to expand – the first international alpine races counting for the legendary ‘Arlberg-Kandahar’ combined were organized on the challenging ‘Kreuzeck’ courses. After WWII, the Kandahar Club lead by its visionary President Sir Arnold Lunn, wishing to expand its well-known competition in other countries than Austria and Switzerland, and had also included Chamonix (in 1948) and Sestriere (in 1951) to the traditional resorts of St. Anton and Mürren. Each fifth winter, the world best racers traveled afterwards to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to attend this event obviously also included in the World Cup tour in January 1970 – interestingly enough on the same weekend as the technical races at Madonna di Campiglio, in Italy.
Austria’s Skiing Legend Karl Schranz won the downhill that year for the second time after 1959 – it was one of his thirteen victories in downhill, slalom or combined of the prestigious ‘AK’ event! That year, the downhill was unfortunately marked by the fatal accident of Canada’s promising John Semmelink, who lost his balance on his way down the icy run. Born in Shanghai in the late 1930s from Dutch parents, Herman Jan learned to ski in the early 1950s after his parents moved to Montreal. He had represented Canada at the 1958 FIS World Championships at Badgastein. His accident accelerated the obligation by FIS to wear better and stronger helmets in downhill instead of the leather-hat that downhillers took from cyclists. FIS Officials also decided to introduce the so-called ‘non-stop- training’ run a day prior to the race to be sure that all the competitors are aware of the speed and the dangers expecting them on race-day!
A regular stop since 1973.
Since 1973 and the spectacular victory of Switzerland’s Roland Collombin on the icy course, the two World Cup circuits regularly return to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in that period. In the meantime, the beautiful town became one of the few ski resorts having hosted major medal races (Olympics in 1936, FIS World Championships in 1978 and 2011) as well as World Cup Finals in 2010.
It has also be the site for many ‘first-time’ major victories at the top-level, starting with France’s Jean Claude Killy, who captured a giant slalom there in 1964 a week after disappointing results at the Innsbruck Olympics where he was aiming for more than a 5th place in giant slalom.
More recently, the great Hermann Maier celebrated his maiden World Cup win in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February 1987, a month after injuring himself at a hand during a crash at Chamonix racing in his first ever World Cup downhill. Maier, who skipped the FIS World Championships at Sestriere because of that accident, came back with a huge motivation on the tour to beat all the favorites in a tough Super-G race despite racing with a high start-number – a day after surprisingly finishing 2nd in a previous race dominated by France’s overall World Cup champion Luc Alphand.
‘The Herminator’ enjoyed four more victories on that difficult slope that crowned most of the best speed specialists in modern ski racing.
The Canadian Team also had some exciting moments to celebrate in Garmisch-Partenkirchen where Steve Podborski achieved an impressive hat-trick in downhill from 1981 to 1983 as his successor Erik Guay, a winner in downhill in 2007 and in Super-G in 2010 before clinching gold in downhill at the FIS World Championships in February 2011!
After the spectacular Finals from March 2010, the World Cup Committee decided to include a giant slalom next to the downhill instead of a slalom or a Super-G. In 2013, France’s Alexis Pinturault celebrated a particular maiden victory in the specialty beating for the first time all the other favorites including Ted Ligety and Marcel Hirscher at the end of a thrilling competition.
The Frenchman is ready to repeat this feat – and reinforce his lead in the giant slalom standings a few weeks before the St. Moritz World Championships.
© PkL – FIS 2017