Vail ’99 recap: Hey, big surprise, Austrians win again |

Vail ’99 recap: Hey, big surprise, Austrians win again

Renate Goetschl of Austria, center, the gold medal winner is flanked by compatriots Michaela Dorfmeister, left, silver, and Stefanie Schuster, bronze, following the women's downhill at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail, on Feb. 7, 1999.
Vail Daily file photo |

Editor’s note: Vail and Beaver Creek are hosting the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships Feb. 2-15. The following story is part of a series previewing the upcoming World Championships by looking back at 1999, the last time the Vail Valley hosted the Championships.

VAIL — And the Austrian parade to the medal stand continued.

The Vail Daily ran the headline, “Simply Aus-some.”

The first week of the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek concluded with an Austrian sweep of the women’s downhill.

Renate Goetschl, Michaela Dorfmeister and Stephanie Schuster went 1-2-3.

Until 1999, no country had swept the podium in a women’s event at Worlds in the post-World War II era of the competition. Now the Austrians had done it twice in five days, along with their sweep in the super-G.

The Swiss men — Peter Mueller, Pirmin Zubriggen and Karl Alpgier — were the last to sweep before 1999, and they did it on home snow in Crans Montana in 1987. (Three other sets of Austrian men went 1-2-3 in the 1954 downhill, the 1956 giant slalom and the 1962 GS.)

And to put a cap on things, Alexandra Meissnitzer, the golden girl of the super-G earlier in the week, finished fourth. A country may only enter four competitors in a Worlds event, the only fact that seemed to prevent the Austrians from packing more into the top 10. France’s Melanie Suchet was the world champion of non-Austrians, finishing fifth.

Halfway through the championships, the Austrian’s had won or tied for the win in four of five events and had taken home 10 of the 15 medals awarded. (Austria’s Hermann Maier and Norway’s Lasse Kjus tied in the men’s super-G.)

Party time

By this point of Vail ’99, the Austrian were definitely feeding off one another.

“We have really good girls on our team,” Goetschl said. “You have all this competition between us. It helps a lot.”

And the Austrians were having just as much fun off the snow it seemed. The team had adopted Pepi’s in Vail as their post-race party place. In a story which has become legend, the Austrians partied so much one night that the bartenders just left, leaving the racers and their fans to do their thing.

Factual or not, the Austrians were painting the town red and white.

Goetschl and Dorfmeister were no surprise on the podium. Schuster was. The latter had one World Cup podium to her name.

Megan Gerety was the top American in eighth.

Interesting stuff in the paper

The subhead to the lead story of the Vail Daily coverage of the women’s downhill was “Goetschl stakes claim as top performer of Vail ’99.” Through five events, Goetschl was the leading lady, having won gold in the downhill and silvers in the super-G and the combined.

However, by the end of Vail ’99, she was to have some company. (Hint: Meissnitzer.)

Also on the men’s side, Kjus (five medals in five events) and Maier (wins in downhill and super-G) would merit consideration.

Two days before the women’s downhill, the Vail Daily did a story titled, “Women on Birds?” In 1999, Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey hosted three events — men’s downhill, super-G and combined. All the other events, including all the women’s races, were in Vail.

“I don’t know,” American speed ace Picabo Street said. “Birds of Prey is a pretty aggressive course and it starts out very steep and very icy right off the bat. The mental torque is … we gotta keep us safe.”

Twelve years later, the ladies ended up at Birds of Prey. FIS rescheduled a super-G race from Europe to Beaver Creek, although the Golden Eagle jump was taken out of the course. Lindsey Vonn, who wanted to do that jump, nonetheless, won the super-G on Dec. 7, 2011.

And, of course, Raptor, the women’s course adjacent to Birds of Prey, is all set to host in 2015.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, and @cfreud.

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