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Schlunegger becomes first women's downhill winner

Women's Alpine skiing had made little impact on the Olympic Winter Games prior to the Second World War and, just as it was with the men, these were the Games where we got the first women’s downhill champion.


Now, with the downhill so established as one of the blue riband events of any Olympic Winter Games, it seems hard to imagine the event having to be introduced, but in 1948, its position was uncertain. Both the men's and women's downhills were run on the same day, in order to maximise the interest from the watching public.

The top ten finishers included all the familiar skiing countries – three skiers from Switzerland, three from France, two from Austria and one each from Italy and Norway. But out in front, the honour of winning the first women's downhill title went to the Swiss skier Hedy Schlunegger.

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She finished nearly a second clear of Austria's Trude Beiser, with another Austrian, Resi Hammerer, taking bronze.

Schlunegger did not return to the Olympic arena and instead opened a sports shop with her husband. However, her granddaughter Martina Schild became a leading international skier and won a silver in the 2006 women's downhill in Torino.
 

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