Female athletes on the Streif

27.10.2010

Heidi Biebl with her trainer Fritz Huber

The last time that female athletes competed in the Hahnenkamm Races was 50 years ago, during the Races in 1961. Female winners and former members of the Austrian Women’s National Team will meet in Kitzbühel from 17th to 19th November.

Who thinks that the Streif has always been a thing for men is completely wrong. “We are able to do what for example Ferdinand Friedensbacher or Hans Mariacher can do”, the women said proudly, as they participated in their first Hahnenkamm Races in the 1930ies. Austrian Rini Andreatta was the athlete, who won the Downhill, Slalom and Combination in the first women’s Hahnenkamm Race. Baronesse Gratia Schimmelpennick (NED) equalled this result one year later in 1935. Despite the fact that Hilde Gustine from Austria won the Downhill, the Dutch athlete was able to defend the Combination title in 1936.

For the first time in 1953 people were heard saying that it was too dangerous for women to go down the Streif. However the Hahnenkamm Races were open to female athletes on 19 occasions, apart from a break due to the war between 1938 and 1946. Traudl Hecher from Tyrol not only won the Downhill in 1961. She also took first place in the Slalom and so was able to win the last Women’s Races in Kitzbühel. In view of the course conditions or the equipment used back then, the performance of these ladies cannot be rated highly enough. It would be most appropriate to call them “incredible“.

The athletes will remember the reunion from 17th to 19th November as well as the Races in Kitzbühel. Several side events will turn this get-together of the female skiing legends into an unforgettable event. On 17th November they will pay a visit to Toni Sailer’s grave, who would have turned 75 on this day. In the evening a movie with Toni Sailer will be shown and afterwards a swing and dance evening will take place at the popular Praxmair Café in Kitzbühel, giving them the opportunity to talk about the old days. Interviews with contemporary witnesses will be held on 18th November at the Kitzbühel Museum.

Famous coaches from Kitzbühel also contributed to the success of the female athletes. As they were locals they knew the Hahnenkamm inside out. The athletes benefited from this knowledge and they were successful.
Karl Koller won the Hahnenkamm Race in 1946 and he coached a female ski racer. He had taken on an apprenticeship at the Proxauf company in Innsbruck. His employer enabled him to continue with his treasured sport. Koller started to coach his boss’ daughter Anneliese in return, which turned out to be a success, as she won the Downhill, Slalom and Combination in Kitzbühel in 1946. Pepi Salvenmoser was coach of the Canadian Women’s Team in the 1950ies. Among the athletes was Lucille Wheeler, who won the Downhill and Combination in 1957. Fritz Huber was coach of the Austrian and German teams. Heidi Biebl, who was then a member of the German team was 19 years old when she won the gold medal in the Downhill during the Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley in 1960.

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