In 1964, the Innsbruck Winter Games were threatened by a lack of snow. The Austrian army rushed to the rescue, carving out 20,000 blocks of ice from the glaciers and transporting them down to the luge and bobsleigh tracks. They also carried 40,000 cubic meters of snow to the Alpine skiing slopes and leave 20,000 cubic meters of spare snow as a backup.
The Goitschel sisters, Christine and Marielle from Val-d’Isère, both lined up in the women’s Olympic slalom at Innsbruck 1964, held on February 1 at Axamer Lizum, with Marielle kicking off the competition. Producing an explosive run on the 51-gate course, eighteen-year-old Marielle Goitschel stopped the clock in 43.09, a time that would go unbeaten, with sister Christine, who went out 14th, the only other skier to dip below the 44-second mark with a time of 43.85.
In the second run, it was Christine’s turn to outpace the field, negotiating the 56-gate course a second and half faster than Marielle to claim the gold and complete the very first one-two by sisters in Winter Games history.
Two days later, Marielle got her revenge and finished ahead of her big sister in the Giant Slalom. In a one-run race, Christine post a time of 1:53.11, which was later equaled by Saubert. The two were still out front when Marielle, starting 14th, flew down the 56-gate course in 1:52.24 to snatch the title from her sister and Saubert, completing a remarkable double for the French siblings, a feat unique in the history of the Winter Games.
When she was later asked to name her highlight of the Innsbruck Games, Marielle replied, without a moment’s hesitation: “When Christine won the slalom and I came second. Even when I won the giant, I didn’t get as excited" Christine added: “It was unique! It was the first time! They were the most wonderful two or three minutes of our lives. After that, it doesn’t belong to you anymore”.
Austrian Josef Pepi Stiegler was the only double medallist in Men’s Alpine skiing at Innsbruck 1964.
Starting with bib 1 in the giant slalom, Stiegler posted a time of 1:48.05, one that ultimately proved good enough for bronze, with only France’s François Bonlieu and fellow Austrian Karl Schranz going faster, taking gold and silver respectively.
Six days later Stiegler won gold in the Slalom beating USA team-mates William “Billy” Kidd and Jimmy Heuga.
Local hero Egon Zimmermann, from Lech Am Arlberg, thrilled the home fans winning the gold medal in a Downhill held in front of a vociferous home crowd on the Patscherkofel in Igls on the penultimate day of January.
Zimmermann, with bib number 7, hurled himself through the start gate and into a thrilling and perfectly executed run that ended with him crossing the finish line with a winning time of 2:18.16. France’s Léo Lacroix and Germany’s Wolfgang Bartels rounded out the podium in second and third place respectively.