Written by Ingemar Stenmark
I was never one to reminisce much about my memories and past successes. Actually, I don’t think about them at all and have already forgotten many. I feel that living in the past has no meaning. Resting on old laurels is nothing more than resting. Today it’s 2019 and all these things took place in the seventies and eighties of the past century. It was all so long ago that both a century and a millennium have turned since then.
But here and there some little thing I see or feel reminds me of my skiing career. Every four years, when it’s time for the Olympics again, some reporter usually remembers me and my achievements. Questions from the press then tend to start a chain reaction of thoughts and memories and when they bubble up to the surface I often ask myself just how deep in my subconscious I have buried them that they so seldom come up.
It is actually difficult for me to speak of my achievements and I really don’t want it to seem like I am singing my own praises. I could say that I am one of those lucky athletes whose careers passed with no major turmoil. I never had problems with injury and I guess my parents and nature gave me a good predisposition for sports. But perhaps my greatest stroke of good luck was being truly in love with skiing, so I never really saw training and all the other stuff that goes with it as hard work. All this probably contributed to me winning just about every major title over a period of twenty years.
When asked how I would rank all of my wins and medals, I find myself in a major predicament. I don’t know. I can’t. It just can’t be done. Every race, every win, every medal and every cup is a separate story. Generally an Olympic gold medal is considered the most valuable and emotionally speaking, that is true. After all, an athlete only gets a chance to win an Olympic medal once every four years. But on the other hand, a crystal globe, be it small or large, can’t be won on luck. A World Cup title is a result of constant form throughout the season. During my career World Championships were also held every four years, so in sporting terms the title of World Champion is comparable to an Olympic gold. Today World Championships happen every two years, so the profile of the title is slightly reduced. I often get asked which medal or title is may favorite. That too is a very difficult decision. In the end, I would have to go with the win in the Olympic giant slalom in Lake Placid 1980. Before the Games, I won 12 World Cup giant slalom races in a row, so everybody expected me to win. But the expectations put on a lot of pressure.
During my career, the Olympic Games were only open to athletes with an amateur status. In 1972, Karl Schranz was even expelled from the Sapporo Games due to his alleged professional status, and his was not the only case. After winning two gold medals at Lake Placid I felt happy and had no need to win more medals. So I consciously decided to take the so-called “B license,” a sort of professional status, and therefore disable myself from participating in the Sarajevo Games. Since then I focused mostly on World Cup wins.
It is true that sporting successes open many doors and in this sense Olympic medals carry a particular status. Although it now seems like it all took place in a different lifetime, my skiing successes still gives me a degree of recognizability. After all, I probably have my successes in skiing to thank for the opportunity to participate in the Swedish version of Dancing With The Stars a few years ago…
Release courtesy of Elan Skis.