Olympic and World Champion

Passing Date: 
Friday, August 23, 2019

Egon Norbert Zimmermann, 1962 World Champion in GS and 1964 gold medalist in downhill, died August 23 at age 80. He had long suffered multiple sclerosis.

Born in 1939 in Lech-am-Arlberg, Zimmermann began skiing after World War II, at age 7, and won a number of school races without formal coaching. At age 15, in 1954, he was sent to Paris to train as a chef. Four years later he returned to Austria and swept the Junior championships, earning a berth on the national team.

Zimmermann won in all three disciplines but regarded himself as a downhill specialist. In the pre-World Cup era, he was consistently ranked among the top five skiers in the world, with victories at Kitzbühel, Chamonix, Val d’Isère, Wengen and Sestriere. In the 1962 and ’63 seasons, in addition to his World Championship medals, he won the Megève downhill and the Hahnenkamm (the Arlberg-Kandahar trophy that year). He was named “Skieur d’Or” that winter, an unofficial recognition of the world’s top skier.

In 1964 he won the Lauberhorne, and, on the Patscherkofel course above Innsbruck, beat Leo Lacroix by .75 second for Olympic downhill gold. Badly injured in a traffic accident the following fall, he missed the 1965 season and never returned to full strength. He retired in 1968, at age 29, after finishing 10th in the inaugural season of World Cup downhill standings. He returned to Lech to manage his four-star Hotel Kristberg, built in 1966.

Zimmermann was the younger of two Austrian racers sharing the same name, and was listed in FIS results as Egon Zimmermann II. The elder Zimmermann competed at Squaw Valley in 1960, remained in the United States and married American Olympic medalist Penny Pitou. He died in 2016. –Seth Masia

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