Mittermaier, Rosi (1950—)

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Mittermaier, Rosi (1950—)

West German skier. Born in Reit im Winkel, West Germany, near the Austrian border, on August 5, 1950; sister of skier Evi Mittermaier, who came in 8th in the giant slalom in the 1976 Olympics.

Won the World Cup overall and slalom (1976); won three Olympic medals in the Innsbruck Winter Games: gold medal in the downhill with a time of 1:46.16, gold medal in the slalom with a time of 1:30.54, and silver medal in the giant slalom (1976).

Born in 1950 in Reit im Winkel, West Germany, near the Austrian border, Rosi Mittermaier skied for a decade before she won her first medal in a major downhill race. During these

years, she was well known on the international slopes as a fierce competitor, but fellow skiers affectionately called her "Omi" (Granny), alluding to her senior status. (Her sister Evi Mittermaier was also a competitive skier.) In the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, Rosi had placed 25th in the downhill, was disqualified in the slalom, and had come in 20th in the giant slalom. She had improved at the Sapporo Winter Games in 1972, placing 6th in the downhill, 12th in the giant slalom, and 17th in the slalom. Despite her disappointing finishes, Mittermaier had always worn a smile.

When the 26-year-old Mittermaier entered her third Olympics, the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, no one expected a stellar performance, but she proved that age was no disadvantage. The popular Rosi, a hotel and restaurant waitress during the off-season, was helped by the retirement of Annemarie Proell-Moser and the absence of flu-plagued Marie-Thérèse Nadig . Mittermaier's first event was the downhill on February 8; the pre-race favorite was Brigitte Totschnigg of Austria. When the skiers met at the bottom, Mittermaier's time was 1:46.16 to Totschnigg's 1:46.68. She had beaten Totschnigg by 52/100ths of a second. It was not only a gold medal for Mittermaier, but her first major downhill victory. (Cindy Nelson of the U.S. captured the bronze.)

Three days later, on February 11, with the population of Reit im Winkel anxiously lining the slopes to watch the hometown sisters Mittermaier, Rosi proved her win was no fluke. She took the gold in the slalom by surpassing Claudia Giordani of Italy's time by 33/100ths of a second; Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein took the bronze. At this point, Mittermaier was praying for a gold in the giant slalom. It would then be a clean sweep of all three alpine events, making her the first woman skier to achieve an Olympic grand slam. Television networks had a huge story, sportscasters were ecstatic, and television viewers around the world who had become entranced with the West German were praying along with her.

On February 13, in Mittermaier's third and final race, Kathy Kreiner of Canada surprised even herself as she tore down the course for the giant slalom and crossed the finish line in 1:29.13 seconds. Rosi, who followed, was 54/100ths of a second ahead of Kreiner at the intermediate mark as the townspeople of Reit im Winkel cheered with gusto. However, when she completed her descent, the time of 1:29.25 flashed on the scoreboard. Kreiner had squeaked out a gold medal by 12/100ths of a second, and Rosi Mittermaier had to settle for a silver. (Evi Mittermaier came in 8th in the same event.) When the press and photographers crowded around Rosi to commiserate and record the anguish of her loss, she was still smiling.

Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia