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EXCERPT | Feb. 16, 1976
Austria's Franz Klammer charged to Olympic glory
Reigning World Cup downhill champ Franz Klammer attacked every turn during a memorable run at Innsbruck's Patscherkofel downhill course on his way to a gold medal. William Oscar Johnson reported for SI.
Klammer burst out of the start like a wild man. He took the first third of the 3,020-meter course in desperate fashion, constantly opening his tuck as he was flung into the air like a flailing rag doll over the jumps, his skis clattering over the jarring ice. He ran the first half of the course in 1:13.24, a dangerous .19 behind leader Bernhard Russi of Switzerland. He took still more chances in the next section and slipped even further behind.
Now Klammer flashed into the last 1,000 meters. Ahead lay the Compression, a jump followed by a dip whose G-forces were squeezing the breath out of the racers. Beyond that was a savage turn called Johannesweg that had already sent two men flying into spectacular falls. Klammer nearly went out of control again, almost missing the gate above the Compression. But he miraculously righted himself, dropped into a tuck again and took a tighter line on the course than any skier before him. He picked up split seconds. At Johannesweg he sped down the steep drop, the surface hard and rough as corrugated steel, and wrenched his body into a tremendous turn that seemed as much a product of willpower as of strength. Now he flew over the last jump and streaked down the final schuss for the finish. Klammer is celebrated for his daring, but never had he run a race teetering so consistently on the edge of disaster.
Klammer won four straight World Cup downhill titles from 1975 to '78, then won a fifth in '83. He retired two years later at age 31.
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From Seth Davis's "Hoops Thoughts" on guard Jason Clark and the surging Hoyas:
Chemistry is the biggest difference between this team and last year's. Last season's youngsters and upperclassmen never jelled. These Hoyas have so far played unselfish, team-oriented basketball, and that has enabled them to bounce back from losses. They followed a 17-point drubbing at Syracuse by blowing past Duke. They stubbed their toe against South Florida but responded by throttling No. 2 Villanova 103--90.
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Egon Zimmermann, of Austria, won the gold medal in the downhill with the best race of his career, finishing .74 of a second ahead of France's Leo Lacroix.
Debbie Armstrong, a virtual unknown from Seattle, stunned the field—and earned the U.S. its first gold medal of the Sarajevo Games—with a win in the giant slalom.
Hermann Maier suffered a spectacular, and disastrous, fall in the downhill, but the Austrian World Cup champion recovered to win the gold medal in the Super G in Nagano.
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Photograph by HELMUT GRITSCHER
LIFTOFF Klammer, known as the Astronaut, barely escaped the wrath of gravity on several occasions during his daring run.
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CARL YARBROUGH (MAIER)
LOU CAPOZZOLA (CLARK)
YAN YAN/XINHUA/SIPA (MARBURY)
JOHN ALBRIGHT/ICON SMI (POWELL)
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