Veni, Vidi… Vreni!
As she was born at the top of a mountain, Vreni Schneider, 43 today, was pre-destined to hurtle down their snowy slopes. At the age of three, she was already donning skis. Soon she followed her brothers on the slopes to overtake them. She left her small village, Elm, nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps, to conquer the “white circus”. In all four corners of the Earth, the Empress of Slalom, Vreni Schneider, stacked up successes. The encounter between the Olympic Games and such a champion of skiing could only lead to a success story.
The dazzling second rounds
When Vreni took part in a race, her competitors had to be careful: a fantastic recovery in the second round was the Swiss skier’s trademark. Even a significant delay accumulated in the first round could not prevent her from excelling in the final. Nerves of steel and risk-taking are the key to this astonishing quality. “When I start the second round, I already know the run, which allows me to take more risks”.
In 1988, at the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, she demonstrated precisely that in the giant slalom in Nakiska on the slopes of Mount Allan: placed fifth at the end of the first round, she rocketed from gate to gate in the second. When the “Vreni Express” set off, nothing could stop her: the 85 hundredths-of-a-second delay turned into a 93 hundredths-of-a-second lead, synonymous with victory. At the Calgary Games, the Queen of the Mountain Tops was crowned twice, in the slalom and giant slalom.
The eclipse of Albertville
Four years later, the Swiss athlete was back on the Olympic stage in Albertville. This French edition of the Winter Games was the last to take place in the same year as the Summer Games. Vreni Schneider was the flag-bearer for her delegation in the magical atmosphere of the Opening Ceremony, produced by the inventive Philippe Decouflé. The days that followed were less enchanting for the skier, who suffered from back pain. Diagnosis: a slipped disc. She took part in the competitions anyway, but came only seventh in the slalom and did not finish the giant slalom.
In 1994, in the extravaganza of the Lillehammer Games, Vreni felt at home. With her refound potential, she could take advantage of her extensive experience. Taking part in all the Alpine skiing events, except for the super-G, she took silver in the Alpine combined and bronze in the giant slalom. At the end of the first round of the slalom, she was in fifth place, 68 hundredths of a second behind the best time, but once again her dazzling second round put an end to the argument. Her last Olympic medal was gold.
Vreni Schneider finished her career in 1995 with her 55th and last victory, in the World Cup in Bormio, Italy. The lady who reached the highest peaks in world skiing went back to her little village, where she lives with her family and teaches skiing. With a teacher with such an impressive career – five Olympic medals, six World Championship medal, three victories in the general ranking of the World Cup and 11th in the ranking by discipline – the budding Vrenis are definitely at the right school!
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