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Josef Beerli IOC
12 Feb 1936
Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936

Josef Beerli, Switzerland’s double bobsleigh medallist

Joseph Beerli teamed up with driver Pierre Musy, Noldi Gartmann and Charles Bouvier in the Swiss quartet that won silver behind Germany’s Hanns Killian at the 1935 World Bobsleigh Championships at St Moritz. That same Swiss crew were back in action a year later at the Olympia-Bobbahn track in Garmisch, ready to press their claim for gold in Switzerland II.

With bobsleigh technology advancing all the time, several teams turned up with fully streamlined bobs, among them France I. Driven by Musy, the son of former Swiss president Jean-Marie Musy, Switzerland II boasted a new nose and aerodynamic footrests on either side.

The four-man bob competition was scheduled to take place at the start of the Games, on 8-9 February, but was put back three days owing to heavy rain and snow, which prevented the teams from practising on the track. To avoid any potential of risk the track melting, the first leg got under way at 8 in the morning on 11 February.

Two-time reigning world champion Hanns Kilian got off to a strong start in Germany I, completing the 1,525-metre, 13-turn course a whole two seconds faster than second-placed Belgium II, driven by Max Houben, with Switzerland II third in a time of 1:20.73.

Musy, Gartmann, Bouvier and Beerli then turned in a flawless performance on their second run, setting a new track record of 1:18.78 to lead the competition at the end of day one.

Switzerland II extended their lead the following day, going fastest in the third leg in a time of 1:19.60 and then sealing victory by nearly three seconds in the fourth and final run. It was the country’s second Olympic bob title after Eduard Scherrer’s triumph at Chamonix 1924.

Reto Capadrutt posted the best time of the whole competition in Switzerland I to complete a memorable and unprecedented one-two for the country, with Frederick McEvoy’s Great Britain I taking the bronze, nearly five seconds behind the winners.

Beerli was out on the ice again for the two-man bob competition a couple of days later, joining forces with Fritz Feierabend, a member of Switzerland’s silver medal-winning crew in the four-man competition.

The Swiss pair got off to a bad start, conceding nearly four seconds to Ivan Brown and Alan Washbond in USA I on the first run, a gap that seemed insurmountable even at that early stage. Beerli and Feierabend went fastest in the remaining three runs, however, bowing out with a time of 1:19.88, the fastest of the whole competition.

The Americans were never far behind, though, and clung on to win gold from their Swiss pursuers by 1.35 seconds. With a gold and silver to his name, Beerli could nevertheless take satisfaction from the fact that he was the star bobsleigher of the Garmisch Games.

The Swiss duo followed up by winning two-man bronze at the 1938 World Championships in St Moritz and then forming part of the quartet that took the four-man world title in Cortina d’Ampezzo a year later. Beerli had turned 45 when he collected another world four-man gold in St Moritz in 1948, after which he retired and opened a sports shop in Engelberg, continuing to work there until his death on 4 September 1967.

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