Heidi Biebl, the first German Olympic champion in the downhill in 1960, has died at the age of 80.
Heidi Biebl was the first German Olympic champion in the downhill and was already a star as a teenager, but her last great wish remained unfulfilled. She hopes, Biebl told the “SID” on her 80th birthday last February, “that I’ll have nice, good days with my Bora for as long as possible”. Less than twelve months later, Biebl died last Thursday after a short illness.
Your name will always be associated with February 20, 1960. Three days after her 19th birthday, Biebl drove out of nowhere to gold in Squaw Valley (today: Olympic Valley). Suddenly she was a star – and didn’t know what happened to her. The anthem at the awards ceremony? “I didn’t know her at all,” said Biebl a year ago and laughed, “where from, when she was 19? I didn’t even know what was going on there.”
Biebl grew up in modest circumstances in the tranquil town of Oberstaufen in the Allgäu. Her mother was one of millions of German war widows. “I had to fight hard for a lot,” she said. Also the ski career. She turned down the advice to graduate from high school – and relied fully on skiing. gold right.
After their triumphal journey, the nation puzzled: “Who iskatzeborle?” Biebl later clarified with a smile: After her coup, she was allowed to call her mother at home from an outside broadcast van. “That was the highest thing for me, we had no telephone, no television and nothing,” she reported, “and in the end I thought of our beloved cat and said: Give me de Katzenborle.”
She didn’t have much of her gold medal, which is now in the Oberstaufen local history museum. “I was just too inexperienced and couldn’t market them,” she said regretfully. Other Olympic heroes such as Georg Thoma or Hans-Peter Lanig received a piece of land from their community, and Biebl was offered a wristwatch by their ski company: “But I already had one.” She got paid for her driver’s license instead.
The Federal Republic of Germany honored Biebl with the silver laurel leaf, her home town dedicated the Heidi-Biebl-Weg to her, and the German Ski Association (DSV) gave her the badge of honour. “But I can’t bite off that either,” she said contritely. After two fourth places at the 1964 Olympics, Biebl ended her career in 1966 because of differences of opinion with the DSV: “I was left. I was too undiplomatic.”
Biebl became a ski instructor, opened her own ski school and the “Olympia” hotel in Oberstaufen. In 2008 she sold it “at the worst possible time”.
Her health has deteriorated in recent years. But “list all your suffering” in times of the pandemic? No, she didn’t want that. The only thing that bothered her was that she and her husband Bora, to whom she had been married for 48 years, had to wait so long for a vaccination appointment.