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Beiser tops downhill silver with combined gold

Austria’s women skiers enjoyed great success in St Moritz as they went on to win five medals in three women’s events. And leading the way was a skier who was emerging as one of the best in the world - Trude Beiser.

Beiser grew up in a big family. She had ten brothers and sisters, and they had one pair of skis to share between them. And yet on the days when it was her turn to go skiing, her talent was obvious, and it didn't take long for Trude to start training with the Arlberg Ski Club.

She was called up to the Austrian national team shortly after the end of the Second World War, rapidly moving through the field until she started winning big races in 1947. Health problems affected some of her preparations, but by the time the team arrived in St Moritz, Beiser was ready for the biggest challenge of her career.

She was entered for both the downhill and the Alpine combined. The format seemed to help her because, in 1948, the downhill race also counted towards the combination medals.

On the day of the downhill, she rose to the occasion. Switzerland's Hedy Schlunegger took the gold, but Beiser was second quickest to take silver. Now her attention switched to the slalom race, two days later, that would define who went home with the Alpine combined medals.

Schlunegger tumbled out of the reckoning after coming just 15th in the slalom. The best slalom performer in the field was another Austrian, Erika Mahringer, but she had finished only 15th in the downhill while another strong slalom skier, Gretchen Fraser, had to recover after coming 11th after the downhill. In truth, there was no skier who proved brilliant at both categories.

Beiser's slalom was good enough for eighth. Not spectacular, but good enough – for when the scores were combined from the two disciplines, it was her name at the top of the sheet; a gold to follow her silver.

Beiser abruptly retired from sport in 1948, got married and gave birth. But then she returned to racing, won a world title and then, in 1952, won the Olympic downhill by nearly a second.
She retired once more, this time for good and in her later life, became a ski instructor. She also opened a café in her home town, which is now run by her son.

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