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The greatest 2 minutes in Winter Olympics history

Posted by Richard on February 15, 2010

Day 3 of the Winter Olympiad is done, and still no alpine skiing, so I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane. In 1976, the games were held in Innsbruck, where I was born. Americans were rarely competitive in alpine skiing back in those days, so I was cheering on the Austrians. And the one I was cheering on the most (along with all his countrymen) was Franz Klammer, the greatest downhill racer of all time.

It didn't look good for Klammer. He was the last of the 15 competitors to ski. This was his "home mountain," but Switzerland's Bernhard Russi led with a time almost 2 seconds faster than Klammer's best ever on the course. He and everyone watching knew that it would take an amazing run to win. 

And amazing it was. I don't remember where in Knoxville I was living at the time. I don't remember who was there watching with me. But I remember vividly how I felt for that 1:45 run. Every muscle in my body was tensed from beginning to end, and I could barely breathe. It's by far the most intense 2 minutes of television I've ever seen. Some people call it the most exciting 2 minutes in sports history. I certainly wouldn't argue. Klammer was on the edge of disaster throughout the run, going all-out, balls-to-the-wall from beginning to end. 

I found some videos on YouTube. This first one isn't the best video quality, but it shows the entire run from top to bottom, with the original broadcast commentary by Frank Gifford and Bob Beattie. Even in a small window, with poor video quality, and knowing the outcome, it's still compelling, riveting, and intense. Imagine seeing it live (well, tape-delayed "live") on your TV, not knowing what was going to happen next.

[YouTube link]

The second one is from Austrian TV and is much higher video quality, but doesn't show the entire run. OTOH, you can see better how insanely Klammer was skiing. And you get to hear the Austrian broadcaster shouting "Jawohl!" ("Yes!") at the finish and see how Austrians reacted. 

[YouTube link ]

That, my friends, is the Thrill of Victory!

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