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20 November 2015

An Alpine Ski Icon: Ingemar Stenmark

Renowned for his style and flare on the slopes, Ingemar Stenmark isn't just the greatest slalom specialist of all time, he's a true national icon in Sweden.

Stenmark has won more World Cup races than any other alpine skier in history, racking up an impressive 86 wins (40 slaloms and 46 giant slaloms!) However, his greatness is not only reflected in winning figures. Born in 1956, Stenmark was at the forefront of alpine skiing progressing from an amateur activity to a true professional sport.

The champion bagged World Cup titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978, but his winning streak came to an end in 1979 when a change in the rules of alpine skiing penalised him for his high speeds.

At the 1978 World Championships in Garmisch, Stenmark won the slalom and giant slalom, and at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid he won a further two gold medals.

Two years later at the 1982 World Championships in Schladming, Stenmark won gold yet again in slalom. However, he was beaten in giant slalom by American skier, Steve Mahre and had to settle for silver.

Controversially, Stenmark prohibited from participating in the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo (a season in which he was the best giant slalom and second best slalom racer) by the International Ski Federation (FIS) for accepting promotional payments directly, rather than through the National Ski Federation. It was a shocking decision and quite a blow for the sports star.

Stenmark was allowed to compete again in the Olympic competition in 1988, but by this point he was considered past his prime (even thought he had the fastest second run of the slalom competition).

Days from his 33rd birthday in March of 1989, Stenmark retired from World Cup competition. But left a real legacy behind him.

Not only was Stenmark celebrated for his victories, he was also hailed the first popular icon of the alpine skiing sport and a star that many people enjoy recognised and cherished.

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