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From a farmer’s boy to a world star: Franz Klammer in Chasing the Line

Franz Klammer - and a whole nation - will probably never forget this day: February 5, 1976, the day on which the down-to-earth Carinthian won the Olympic gold medal.

Back to the roots

Franz Klammer was on skis from an early age - how could it be otherwise? Franz started racing at the age of 14 and made the leap from the Carinthian national squad to the C squad of the ÖSV at the age of 17. One success followed the next: Franz won the downhill World Cup five times and a total of 25 individual World Cup victories - is considered the best downhill racer in the world. Not for nothing was Klammer the absolute favorite at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck in 1976. The downhill racer, who was only 22 years old at the time, carried the hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders.

 

Chasing the Line

The gripping story from the farmer’s boy to the down-to-earth world star has now also been filmed. With "Chasing the Line" by Austro-successful director Andreas Schmied and Julian Waldner & Valerie Huber in the leading roles, the probably most spectacular downhill race in sports history at the 1976 Winter Olympics is brought back to life. Thrilling images and state of the art ski footage show viewers what it means to be part of the most important race in Franz Klammer's career. Zanier Gloves supplied the casual retro leather gloves exclusively for the film. 

The premiere of the film took place in September 2021 at the Zurich Film Festival, the release in Austrian cinemas was in October. ORF broadcast the film for the first time on February 5, 2022, exactly 46 years after Klammer's victory.

Julian Waldner as Franz Klammer in Chasing the Line. Photo: epo/Samsara/Christoph Thanhoffer
Julian Waldner as Franz Klammer in Chasing the Line. Photo: epo/Samsara/Christoph Thanhoffer
Julian Waldner as Franz Klammer in Chasing the Line. Photo: epo/Samsara/Christoph Thanhoffer
Julian Waldner as Franz Klammer in Chasing the Line. Photo: epo/Samsara/Christoph Thanhoffer

What distinguishes today's ski racers from those in the 70s? How Franz Klammer dealt with this enormous pressure back then and what message the film is supposed to convey? We met Franz and asked him:

 

You are the most successful downhill skier of all time. How is it that you have not yet been beaten?

„Someday an athlete will come and replace me here - they just have to make an effort... ;-). In the past, courage was a key factor: the slopes were criminal - which meant that whoever dared to go faster also went faster. Nowadays, you're looking for hundredths everywhere from top to bottom. Today, there are no more sections where you can get half a second, as was the case with us.“

 

How do you see the sport over 40 years ago and today? What has changed, what has remained the constant?

I don't know how the athletes are doing today, I can only say how we were back then. Basically, the slope has changed a lot over the years. Today it is a compact artificial snow slope, back then it was not like that. Of course, the change in the slope also brought with it a further development of the skis. We tested carving skis back then, but that didn't work. Our ski boots were soft back then, today they are "hard as nails", which of course has an effect on the thigh muscles. Safety precautions were also modest in the past. Actually, no stone was left unturned."

 

What do you say to the movie yourself? Does he correspond to reality?

„The basic framework of the film clearly corresponds to the facts. But it is and remains a feature film and is not a documentary – so of course it has been treated a little differently in terms of film.“

What’s on your mind when you watch the movie? Does it still evoke strong emotions in you?

„I think the film is well done: Edgy, snappy editing, no idle moments, I like it every time I see it. The film is a true journey back in time to the 70s - everything about it really fits: from the outfits to the way people think. Andreas & Elisabeth Schmidt did a good job of research. I also think the title "Chasing the Line" is great. I was always looking for the perfect line - on and off the slopes - and I found it.”

Zanier Gloves in 70s style for “Chasing the Line”
Zanier Gloves in 70s style for “Chasing the Line”

Were you always present during the shooting?

„No. I was there on the first day, where we shot the last scene, and once in the Stadthalle Wien at the start number raffle - otherwise not. I wasn't needed during the shooting - I already did my part ;-).“

 

At that time, you were certainly under enormous pressure. Did you also have mental coaches to help you deal with this pressure?

„Top people don't need mental support - they have what they need. In our case (Franz Klammer and Werner Grissmann), the so-called mental coach despaired. We sent him home on the second day. How can someone who has no idea about skiing tell me how to ski downhill? I never quite understood that.“

 

What does your wife Eva say about the film?

„She likes the movie very much! She says it's a good feature film with actual background. It was important to me that Eva likes the film.“

 

Was there a plan B or was it always clear to you that you wanted to become a professional skier?

„No, there was no plan B for me. I already knew at the age of 14 that I wanted to become a professional skier. I wasn't sure exactly what that would be, but I knew it had to do with skiing.“

 

Does the hype surrounding you, which has already lasted 45 years, sometimes get too much for you?

„Everything belongs together: If you say A, you also have to say B. You have to be able to deal with the press and the people. But if it doesn't suit me at the moment, I just stay at home.“

 

What message would you give to a young athlete today?

You see that everything is possible if you go your own way. You just have to work harder than the others, and then you'll get there.

Franz Klammer together Werner Zanier back in the 80s
Franz Klammer together Werner Zanier back in the 80s

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