- 26 Feb 1988
- Calgary 1988
Alpine Skiing - Schneider bounces back
Switzerland's Vreni Schneider was already an established star by the time Calgary 1988 came around, but this was her first appearance on the Olympic stage.
The 23-year-old had already won a number of World Cup races and had been crowned world champion in giant slalom the previous year. But how would she cope under the Olympic spotlight? The initial answer to that question appeared to be: not very well. She didn't finish her first event, the combined, which was a disappointment, although it had never been her main target.
She had to wait until several days later to really get her Games into gear - in the giant slalom, for which she was the favourite. Further disappointment looked to be on the cards, however, as she was only fifth fastest with her first run.
At that stage, the lead was held by Spain's Blanca Fernández Ochoa, followed by the German Christa Kinshofer-Güthlein and Austria's Anita Wachter. However, the gap at the top of the leaderboard was not huge – less than a second separate the first seven skiers. Schneider had to make up a deficit of 0.85 seconds. Skilled as she was, it would take a spectacular effort in her second run to claim victory.
She was given hope when Ochoa's good work in the first run was undone as she fell near the start of her second run, instantly putting her out of contention. Meanwhile, Kinshofer-Güthlein posted a solid but unremarkable time.
Then Schneider did something special. Her time of 1 minute 5.96 seconds was nearly three-quarters of a second quicker than second placed Ulrike Maier and 1.48 seconds ahead of Kinshofer-Güthlein. None of the other challengers from the first run could get anywhere near matching her total time while plenty of skiers fell, with less than half the field managing to complete both runs. The Swiss skier had bounced back in style to take gold in what had been an extremely gruelling contest.
Buoyed by her success, Schneider started the slalom two days later in confident mood. This time she was the fastest in each of the two runs, as she served up an utterly dominant performance that resulted in victory by a huge margin of more than 1.6 seconds.
Her double gold triumph in Calgary was the start of an Olympic career that confirmed Schneider as one of Alpine skiing’s great technicians, and that saw her win a total of five medals, the first female Alpine skier to reach that target.