On the slopes with over 80
Ex-world-class skier and skiing legend Mathias Leitner is still skiing brilliantly at the age of over 80. In the 1950s, he was part of the Kitzbühel skiing wonder team.
A sextet that dominated the races at home and abroad almost at will. During a ski day with Hias Leitner on the Hahnenkamm, he tells of trees as "safety nets" and what unusual motivation there was occasionally to get down to the valley even faster.
"WE ACTUALLY WON EVERYTHING"
Mathias Leitner, born in Kitzbühel in 1935 and part of the legendary Kitzbühel Ski Miracle Team. With him we look back a little, to the time when wooden skis were still used on the Streif. "We actually won everything back then," Hias tells us. After a moment he revises his statement. "Well, not everything either, of course. But quite a lot." We, by that he means himself and his colleagues Toni Sailer, Anderl Molterer, Ernst Hinterseer, Christian Pravda and Fritz Huber. All of them from Kitzbühel. Neither before nor after has there been a comparable generation. "Toni and Anderl won the most, of course," Leitner recounts. "But when they missed out, we were just there." He himself, for example, won the Arlberg-Kandahar slaloms in Sestriere, races in Wengen and Madonna de Campiglio. In 1960, he won the Olympic silver medal in the slalom behind Ernst Hinterseer.
"WHEN YOU HAD TO GO TO THE BATHROOM, YOU HAD TO MAKE SURE YOU WERE DOWNSTAIRS FAST."
In Kitzbühel, sports heroes enjoy a very special status. Every Kitzbühel winner (Hahnenkamm race) receives a gondola with his name on it. The fact that there is no "Hias Leitner gondola" is not only because this special feature has only existed since the new Hahnenkamm lift was built in 1996, but also because Hias has never been able to win in Kitzbühel. He is not bitter because of this, there were always those who were faster. In the combined he made it to the podium twice, in the downhill he reached 4th place once.
He also revealed his very interesting tactics. At the Hahnenkamm, he laughingly maintains: "We didn't have a start house or any infrastructure yet. In wind and weather, we stood around out in the open. And if you had to go to the bathroom, you had to make sure you got down quickly." It is a real pleasure to listen to Hias Leitner's anecdotes from the past. There was certainly no shortage of fun during the ski races.
FROM THE STEEP SLOPE TO THE GOAL
Much would have changed since his time. "The steep slope was just as steep then as it is now, but a lot narrower. You shot right past the trees. And there were no safety nets in our day either," he recalls. "Fortunately, the trees had branches almost down to the ground. That was our natural net. And otherwise you just rolled through between the trees." Hias reports with a smile.
"I ALWAYS SAID TO MY BOYS: DON'T WHINE!"
After the end of his career, Hias Leitner worked as a coach for the Tyrolean Ski Association and the ÖSV until 1999. He was a promoter of later superstars such as Leonhard Stock, Benjamin Raich or Mario Matt, together they were able to win a total of 23 medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships. In the meantime, they have all ended their careers as well. Of course, Hias still follows the ski races, especially the Norwegian team. They do not look for excuses after bad races. "I've always said to my boys: don't complain, but adjust to the conditions. Then you'll be ahead because the others are still busy complaining."
LOVE FOR SKIING
"In good weather, I actually go skiing every day. Then I always start with the first gondola." And as mentioned at the beginning, we are very impressed by the 84-year-old's fitness. He makes his turns elegantly and smoothly over the steep slopes of the Streif, and he has also made friends with the carving technique ("I liked it right away, you lean into it a bit and off you go.").
We thank you very much for the lines and pictures which were provided to us by BEST OF THE ALPS.
This article was originally published in a longer version at Best of the Alps.