Kathy Kreiner stood at the mountain top of the ski hill and as she was about to make her way out of the starting gate, she said to herself, "They don't know it but I am going to win." And wouldn't you know it, Kreiner did win this giant slalom race – an upset of heavily favoured German Rosi Mittermaier – to capture gold at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. "I was feeling so confident, so focused," Kreiner recalled of the seconds she had to herself before the race. "It was my goal to win. I was the first competitor to start the race and they announced my name and I was motivated by that. "As I was going down, there were about 5,000 people along the slopes chanting, 'R-o-s-i, R-o-s-i.' I could hear that but I blocked it out. I said Rosi was not going to win. I had that sense of confidence."
About a week prior to heading to Innsbruck, Kreiner made the decision to travel to Germany to visit a friend, Thomas Vukovich, who coaxed her to open up and talk about her goals for the Olympics. "Our team wasn't enjoying a great season and we had low morale," Kreiner recollected. "I needed to refresh myself. I wanted to clear my head by going to Germany because 98 per cent of this is mental. Thomas asked me, 'Do you want to be eighth or first or what?' So after talking to him, I was anxious to put my plan into action. I had some of the fastest times in parts of some races that winter so it was not unrealistic to win at the Olympics."
At the age of 18, the Timmins native had become a national hero with her victory in Innsbruck in a time of 1:29.13. "When I finished, I knew I had a good run," Kreiner said. "It was the only gold Canada won at those Olympics so the television stations kept playing my win over and over again. I went home to Timmins for a few days after the Olympics and there were a few receptions and celebrations and then I had to go to Montreal for a news conference. As I went through the terminal at the airport in Toronto, somebody recognized me and started clapping for me and then most of the people in the airport were clapping for me. I had felt the impact my win had on the country."
Kreiner made her first visit to the podium in international racing in 1973 when she captured a bronze in Anchorage at the ripe young age of 15. A year later, she won gold at Pfronten, Germany. Then she captured two silvers in 1977 at Arusa, Switzerland and Sun Valley, Idaho, respectively and another silver in 1980 at Val D'Isere, France – this time in the downhill. She also won bronze medals in Garibaldi, France (1975) and Mont Ste. Anne, Que., (1976), which came not long after her success in Innsbruck.
Using her Olympic gold as inspiration, Kreiner is a motivational speaker and sports coach based in B.C., where she lives with her husband, Dave Phillips, and family.