(ANSA) – ROME, FEB 27 – The myth Gustavo Thoeni turns 70. Today he is a hotelier, also a guide. But above all the grandfather. “I will not celebrate, we cannot, we are stuck” says the former king of skiing, born on February 28, 1951, one of the greatest champions of all time, ruler of the slalom in the 70s, captain of that Blue Avalanche that dictated law in skiing. In his showcase 4 World Cups between 1971 and 1975, one gold and two Olympic silver in giant and slalom, two other Olympic titles in combined, one gold and one world silver, 24 victories in the World Cup, 25 seconds and 20 third places in more than 300 races. Not to mention the national titles. Thoeni made Italians discover the white circus, glued en masse to the TV to follow his exploits. Legendary is the parallel slalom that in 1975 in Val Gardena won against the rising star Ingemar Stenmark. Even more memorable was in the same year his descent from the terrible Streif of Kitzbuehel: it was 2 / o – he who was a great slalomist and gigantist but also a fearless sprinter – behind the king of the free, the Austrian Franz Klammer: one cent second of detachment. If you ask him how he tells the victories to his 11 grandchildren, Thoeni is faithful to his character as a shy mountaineer who does not like the limelight: “Now that they are growing up, they see the cups, they ask me a few questions, but what should I tell them? Grandpa”. Is Thoeni still skiing? “Of course, this year only a couple of times, but now I’m going a little slower,” he explains without irony. “The snow these days is beautiful – he says – there is a lot of it, a fairytale landscape, great tranquility, but it is sad to see everything closed”. The former champion since he retired lives in his Trafoi (Bolzano) on the Stelvio, where he was born on February 28, 1951. He remembers everything from the old days, “How can I choose a victory or another?”, But then there he thinks about and finds something: “The Olympic gold in Sapporo 1972, a fabulous thing, my first Olympics. I also think of my first victory, the Topolino Trophy in Trento, I was 15, what a thrill”. Thoeni remembers the Avalanche Azzurra of the ’70s, that small group of Italians who had their say in world skiing, “it was a wonderful time, we were very friends, and united, we had fun, but in the race each for himself. In Berchtesgaden in 1975 we arrived 5 Italians in the first 5 places, Piero Gros won, I was second, then Erwin Stricker, Helmuth Schmalzl and Tino Pietrogiovanna. What a day, no one has ever repeated such an undertaking “. It was January 7, 1974, the legend of the Avalanche was born there. “We stayed in touch, but now we see each other less.” At the age of 70 Thoeni is a happy man, a former champion who has never gotten to his head. Not even the lockdown, which also damaged his business, spoils his mood. If you ask him about a regret, Thoeni thinks back to the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck: “After the 1st round of the giant I was first by a good margin, the gold medal was practically mine. But in the 2nd I made a trivial mistake and I finished 4 / o. I would have liked to do that heat again, that was my race, if I knew how many times I thought about it, it shouldn’t have gone like this “. Thoeni was and has remained a humble man, always with very few and measured words; monosyllables during TV interviews after each success are proverbial. The champion who made Italian skiing great and who, as a coach, led Alberto Tomba’s triumphs, is a positive man, for him the glass is always half full: “I saw the World Championships in Cortina, a magnificent spectacle”. But Italy went so-so. But he doesn’t agree very much, “it wasn’t easy, and then there was De Aliprandini’s silver, Bassino’s gold, and 2 fourth places, we can’t say it went badly”. (HANDLE).