Ingemar Stenmark Lives In Monaco With Girlfriend, Stenmark. The name rings with a kind of ancient magic. Mahre, Klammer, Killy-that sort of magic. Skiing Hall of Fame stuff. Because he has been around so long, Ingemar Stenmark only seems ancient, having won his first World Cup ski race for Sweden in 1974 at age 17. Now at 31, entering his third Olympic Games, Stenmark the name may be ancient. But in training runs Wednesday, preparing for Thursday`s giant slalom and the slalom Saturday, he seemed to possess all the unmistakable quickness and mastery that earned him two gold medals at the Lake Placid Games eight years ago.
In technical skiing, slalom especially, Stenmark dominated every season from those teen-age years, and now, as good as he still is, he looks back wistfully at Lake Placid-“the highlight of my career“-and the intense rivalry through the late `70s and early `80s with the Mahre brothers.
“Now,“ says Stenmark, stopping to chat between training runs, “I must do more than be in good shape. To ski my best, now, I need inspiration.“
Coming back after being denied entry to the 1984 Games in Sarajevo just might be the inspiration he needs, says the soft-spoken Swede. Because he was openly professional about his many endorsements and business deals then, the International Ski Federation (FIS) issued him a B license, intended as a compromise. He could race on the World Cup circuit, but not be in the 1984 Olympics.
His close friend and closest rival, Phil Mahre, won the slalom gold that year, with brother Steve taking the silver. But without Stenmark in the mix, a slight shadow was cast over the win.
Exactly what Stenmark earns from his ski contracts is a closely guarded secret, but most estimates are well over $1 million yearly. To avoid the Swedish tax laws, he lives in Monte Carlo with his girlfriend. He and his wife, Anna, were divorced last year.
In the days when the FIS struggled with the question of professionalism, no one in skiing was even close to the kind of career numbers Stenmark was amassing. He became the logical high profile for the FIS to use as an object lesson.
As a 19-year-old in 1976, he won a bronze medal in the giant slalom at the Innsbruck Olympics and was the overall World Cup champ, as well as No. 1 in slalom and GS.
From there, Stenmark went on to post more World Cup victories over a 10-year period than the entire Austrian ski team. To date, Stenmark owns 85 World Cup race wins, three overall World Cup titles, 15 specialty World Cup titles in slalom and GS and five gold medals in world championships and Olympics.
To say no skier in history is close understates a point. In fact, no national team comes close to those numbers.
Which makes it understandable now that a tone of ennui creeps into Stenmark`s voice. He is a man perched unsteadily between the oblivion of retirement from the only thing he knows and loves and those past glories which always seem just a few practice sessions from being relived.