Rosi mittermaier is one of the most famous german winter sportswomen in history. The upper bavarian conquered the eternal status of the “gold rosi” at the olympics in innsbruck in 1976. But she was only an active ski racer for a relatively short part of her life.
Before her 70th birthday. Birthday on 5. August mittermaier spoke to the german press agency about her winter games, the hustle and bustle at the time with bathtubs full of flowers and a “totally crazy” letter carrier, the unbroken enthusiasm for skiing and her social commitment to children, especially in this day and age.
Ms. Mittermaier, how did you survive the corona period??
Rosi mittermaier: that was, of course, an extremely new experience for everyone. We – I say we, because I don”t really like to talk about myself – were fortunately born as a family in an area where it was bearable. We have a garden, we could go outside. I can imagine it is very stressful in the city on the third floor with two children. But you have to take it as it comes, follow the rules and make the best of it.
How life has changed in time?
Mittermaier: somehow time has made everyone feel even closer together. You realize that you are not alone in the world. People are less selfish and help each other. You approach your neighbors with different eyes; at least here in garmisch-partenkirchen that was the case.
Are you generally often approached on the strabe?
Mittermaier: yes, many people come up to me. It’s very funny and nice. I then hear stories from the people where they have seen me, how they have experienced me as a skier and my races.
Is to the 70. Birthday a rough party planned?
Mittermaier: no, i’m not the head celebrator at all. Christian and I always had a lot of commitments, we were on the road a lot and, thank god, we were also able to get involved in a lot of charitable projects, especially of course for our children’s rheumatism foundation. Felix also has his foundation, and we are naturally happy to get involved in it as well. We are a family business. It’s nice to meet a lot of friends, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be on your birthday.
Nevertheless, a birthday like this is always an occasion for reminiscence. How often do you think of your olympic games in 1976 with two gold medals??
Mittermaier: only when asked about it. We still get mail from people who want to have an autograph or have a special request. The other day, someone wrote what he owed me through innsbruck: at that time, he had very poor grades at school. As motivation, the teacher promised a rosi-mittermaier book as a reward to the student who improved by two grades. He wanted this book so badly that he studied so hard that he got two grades better in english.
Is there a special memory from 1976?
Mittermaier: so many, you could write whole books. I can hardly pick out anything. Many think the first medal ceremony was particularly emotional. But I was so excited that I didn’t really realize it. I’m someone who always thinks: I hope I’m doing everything right. And then during the games I was constantly being passed around somewhere, everywhere there were receptions for me. In the olympic village I got bathtubs full of flowers. It was only later that I realized what had happened. Today, when i see other athletes at moments like that, i’m more emotional than i was back then.
How did it go on after the games with the "gold-rosi"??
Mittermaier: when I came home, we gave all the flowers to the hospital. But all the hustle and bustle continued. In my parents’ house there was a whole room full of mail and packages. 27,000 letters arrived in one month, the letter carrier told us, he went completely crazy because he had to bring the whole flood up to the winklmoosalm. After the olympics I continued to ski world cup races in america. I was a bit away from the action. But when i went to a football game in san francisco, i suddenly saw myself huge on the screen and the stadium announcer asked me which team was going to win. I had no idea and said: bayern munchen. The whole stadium was amazed.
So you quit because of the hustle and bustle just after the olympic season, at the age of 25?
Mittermaier: yes, that was the case. I was uncontrollably advertised all over the world, my head was on some beer and schnapps glasses or pillows! I thought to myself: such kitsch, this is unbelievable. We at winklmoos had no idea about marketing opportunities in sports. We were not professional athletes, but simply enthusiastic skiers. We were not allowed to earn money with our sport. So the only way I could open up this opportunity was to stop racing. You are supposed to stop at the highest point, so it was the right time, even if it was extremely difficult for me.
What was that time like as a young "pensioner" on skis??
Mittermaier: that was very exciting and a completely new experience. As an athlete, I had experienced all the ski slopes, then it was suddenly new cities and countries and a completely new environment. I have been to japan many times, even when I was 19. I particularly enjoyed the trips there. The japanese are very polite, decent and reserved, there I never had the feeling that they wanted to take me over completely or that you obey them.
After that I was not often itching to race again?
Mittermaier: yes, all the time! The worst thing for me after quitting was that my friends from racing and my usual team around me were gone. I was suddenly with strangers, older people like company bosses at trade fairs, in sports houses or important customers at dinners. And that all over the world. I was only 25 years old and longed for nothing more than my usual environment.
But there was no comeback. Do you regret that today??
Mittermaier: not at all. I was able to get to know a new area of life, which was also important and exciting. I was also lucky enough to have come through racing relatively unscathed. Even today, when you see how dangerous this sport is, I’m thankful that I didn’t get any injuries from racing.
A career as a trainer was conceivable?
Mittermaier: no never. I am not suitable for this, it is a hard profession for a woman, that is why there are hardly any female coaches in ski racing. I did not want to drag poles up the slope in the early morning still in the dark and run stuck. I had made the ski instructor examination in 1975, my father had a ski school. But being on the road again in the same environment the whole year, I had never been able to found a family either. But I have always enjoyed giving skiing lessons to children, even when I was still competing in the world cup. The instructors said, for god’s sake, you can’t do that, you’d better rest. But at christmas there were always so many kids at our ski school – then my sisters and i gave ski lessons there.
Later on, you appeared a lot as a sports ambassador.
Mittermaier: christian and i have always enjoyed being involved. At the 2011 world cup here in garmisch-partenkirchen, for example, we made sure that we received money for a glittering opening ceremony or cultural exhibitions through our world cup coin. This made the world championship a particularly lasting and unforgettable event for the town.
Their son felix neureuther had ended his career in 2019. Do you watch less ski races on TV since then??
Mittermaier: no. I know all the friends of felix, they still come to our house, for example ted ligety or julien lizeroux. They even live with us. I have to follow it more closely. I simply watch all athletes with enthusiasm, they have my heart.
Are you a television viewer or a local viewer??
Mittermaier: live is of course much safer. At the olympic games we were always on the spot. It’s just great and unforgettable. Even if I don’t like the development of the olympics, for me the olympics are always a highlight, for which I always like to take my time and adjust my rhythm accordingly.
Which development do you dislike?
Mittermaier: first of all, stricter lines should be drawn: doping is not acceptable at all. This should be punished much more consistently. If a country does not adhere to the rules of fair play, then it should be sanctioned. I’m disappointed with the IOC for not taking a stricter line. And secondly, everything doesn’t always have to be even coarser and more gigantic. In my opinion, we should reduce the number of athletes and not make the olympics even more expensive for the venues. I also think that the number of disciplines and competitions in ski racing has become unmanageable. It would be great to be able to focus more on highlights that give the athletes and the spectators a better and more sustainable presentation.
Has this development taken away the joy of skiing for you??
Mittermaier: no, pure skiing is still the best thing there is for me and it will always make my heart beat faster.
They have never urged their children to make a career in skiing or even dragged them into the limelight. Why not?
Mittermaier: they didn’t really realize that christian and i were ski racers. We do not have any trophies at home. As a little boy, felix was once asked by a reporter if his mom had any medals. He answered: yes, she did. Then he was asked where he got the female medal. Felix said he was told that by a neighbor who had a book with pictures of his mother and her medals. We always tried to keep ameli and felix out of the hustle and bustle, never taking them to events. That was a pity in retrospect, because we would have liked to have her with us more often. We’ll make up for it with the grandchildren.
How are the ski swings of grandma mittermaier with her grandchildren??
Mittermaier: the best thing for me is to ski with my grandchildren. My, how happy they are when, for example, they are allowed to stand on the podium at a skiing course and receive a medal. All parents and grandparents know that such an experience goes deep into the heart. It is a team sport, because you win and lose together. But skiing is the most beautiful, because as a child you feel the wind around your nose. What a feeling of nature!
And if the grandchildren then also want to become competitive athletes?
Mittermaier: we were not going to forbid you to do that. If you are allowed to practice a sport with joy and talent, you are already privileged. Thanks to skiing, we had the opportunity to travel to america or japan when we were young. That was something very special at the time. The training and the training were exhausting, but maybe that’s where the attraction lies, to assert oneself and to achieve goals. I have never seen it as an issue, for me it has always been a spab. Children should be encouraged to participate in sports, including high-performance sports, especially in today’s environment. Sensible sport and exercise in childhood are guarantees for a healthy life. That’s something we mustn’t forget, especially today, when computers and smartphones are making us increasingly immobile. If you only do e-sports, at some point you will only have overweight children.
About her: rosi mittermaier from reit im winkl was one of the best female ski racers of the 1970s. At the 1976 olympics, she won two gold medals and one silver and became a star. But shortly afterwards she ended her career. The socially committed ex-athlete is married to christian neureuther and mother of felix neureuther.