German alpine skier Rosi Mittermaier passed away on Wednesday, January 4, 2023, after a long battle with cancer.
Mittermaier made her World Cup debut at the tender age of 16. She competed at her first Olympics at only 17 in 1968 in Grenoble, France, and won her first World Cup podium that year. She competed again at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, aged 21, and for a third time in the Innsbruck, Austria, Winter Olympics in 1976. At the 1976 Olympics, she famously won Gold medals in both Downhill and Slalom and Silver in Giant Slalom, earning her the nickname “Gold-Rosi.”
The Olympics made her an instant celebrity. She was showered with presents and flowers. It was just who she was. During an interview, Rosi reminisces about looking at the ocean of flowers in her parent’s bathtub. She wondered what to do with them and decided to donate them to the local hospital. She received 27,000 letters and presents alone. Rosi admits it was utterly overwhelming. This simple donation of all the flowers was just one indication of her big heart and humble nature.
1975/76 was her most successful season, as she also won the World Cup that year. The World Cup final in Copper Mountain saw her winning both the Slalom and the Giant Slalom, and the resort ended up naming the run “Rosi’s Run” in her honor.
Two months after her impressive double victory at the 1976 Winter Olympics, Rosi Mittermaier retired from competitive skiing. She was quoted at the time as saying quite humbly: “My older sister Heidi, who has a restaurant and who heads a ski school in our village, could use some help. I love to race, but I’ve been in World Cup skiing since 1967. It may be time to give it up.”
She admits that back in the 70s, being 25 meant that she was considered “old.” In an interview with the Bavarian TV station BR, she has to chuckle thinking about that now. Mikaela Shiffrin is now her age and at the peak of her career. Rosi admits, “Times were different back then.” People called her ‘the grandmother of the pistes’ at only 25. So the decision to quit was partly forced by society.
Her down-to-earth nature and genuine smile made IMG’s Marc McCormack realize her potential, and he signed the young German for three years to travel the world and promote a range of products. Rosi would have been the first skier to monetize her fame. She also designed her ski line and started a sustainable fashion label called Christrose (later Pyua) later in life.
Rosi married teenage sweetheart and fellow skier Christian Neureuther, a six-time World Cup Slalom winner. Thousands of fans appeared at their wedding. Together, the couple co-authored several books on fitness and nordic walking. Their marriage was one of equals.
They had two children, a daughter Ameli and a son Felix. While both were very talented skiers, the son Felix Neureuther followed in his mother’s footsteps and became a competitive skier from 2003-2019. Ameli went into fashion instead.
The ski world will miss a great champion. The whole world will miss an inspiring, warm-hearted, genuine person. Rosi died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by her family, after a long battle with cancer.