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La Valanga Azzurra

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Half a century ago this year, a name was born that remains legendary today. On January 7, 1974, when five Italians took the first five places in the World Cup giant slalom in Berchtesgaden, the sports journalist Massimo Di Marco wrote in the prestigious Gazzetta dello Sport about the "valanga azzurra": the "azure avalanche".

Piero Gros, Gustav Thöni, Erwin Stricker, Helmuth Schmalzl and Tino Pietrogiovanna were followed by the Norwegian Erik Haker. In Germany, it was all about qualifying for the World Championships in St. Moritz. Three Italians were already in the lead after the first run, and although Erwin Stricker was only in eleventh place at that point, he bet with his Austrian competitors that he could still make it onto the podium. And he did.

The superiority of a ski nation that had never before been so dominant left Austrian head coach and sports director Toni Sailer pondering: "We have to look at everything, train day and night, because these Italians are scary.” As was observed in the French media: "The sporting achievement of the Italian team has no statistical precedent; it will remain a milestone in the history of skiing.”

It's not as if the "valanga azzurra" came from nowhere, as (white) avalanches usually do. The heyday of Italian alpine skiing lasted a decade, from the end of the 1960s to the end of the 1970s. In addition to the stars already mentioned, there were also Roland Thöni, Herbert Plank, Paolo De Chiesa, Fausto Radici, Leonardo David and Marcello Varallo, to mention a few. Between 1969/1970 and 1979/1980 the Italians won five consecutive overall World Cup titles, celebrating 48 victories and 166 podium places.

Today, the “valanga azzurra” (and the “valanga rosa” on the women's side) is still rolling, writing new chapters of the story that began decades ago.