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Konrad Bartelski: From the slopes to the studio

ESPN staff
February 11, 2010
Konrad Bartelski competed in three Winter Olympics © ESPN.co.uk

"Ce n'est pas possible! C'est un Anglais!" screamed the French commentator as Konrad Bartelski became the first, and to this date only, male British downhill skier to stand on a World Cup podium.

Bartelski's run of 2.07.52 at the World Cup in Val Gardena on December 13, 1981 was just 11 hundredths away from a gold medal. Almost thirty years have passed since that historic moment, and rather than pave the way for more British success on the slopes, Bartelski's triumph stands alone.

Only Alain Baxter, who was stripped of his bronze medal after the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics for failing a drugs test after taking an inhaler which contained traces of a banned substance, has emulated the success of Bartelski. Baxter's best finish in a World Cup event was a fourth place in 2001.

"There is no reason why Britain can't be competitive in winter sports," Bartelski said. "People say we will never be able to compete because we don't live in the mountains, but geography should not be an issue - Franz Klammer used to have to drive six hours to train."

Bartelski, who himself grew up in the famously non-mountainous Netherlands, started skiing at an early age in Austria and refused to accept that a Briton could not become a downhill skier. "I started skiing when I was three, but I saw the British were the race clowns, nobody took them seriously," he said.

"It became my motivation to come back and show people, everybody said it couldn't be done, that somebody from Britain could compete and take on the Austrians. As soon as someone tells me something can't be done, I immediately try to find a way to prove them wrong."

As soon as someone tells me something can't be done, I immediately try to find a way to prove them wrong

Bartelski appeared at three Winter Olympics before he retired in 1983 and moved into the commentary box, appearing regularly on the BBC's Ski Sunday and the coverage of the Winter Olympics.

"I left the BBC in 1992 - they thought I was too old and out of touch," he said. "I did some work with Sky and ITV, but it was never my main priority."

After retirement Bartelski's main focus was Badger Sports, a business he set up in the early 90s, importing and supplying winter sports equipment, before moving into television production with IMG. Although he started on the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Bartelski soon branched out into other areas, including touring cars and live golf coverage.

He joined ESPN in 2002 and was responsible for the launch of the European ESPN Classic channel, and later the UK channel. He remains head of in-house production and over the past eight years has witnessed the growth of ESPN in the UK.

"When ESPN got the Premier League football rights we had six weeks to launch a new channel," he said. "They said it couldn't be done, and we were at full stretch, but we were able to do it in time thanks to the ability and quality of the team."

Until recently Bartelski held the position of chairman of selectors for Snowsport GB's alpine skiing team. And away from work, he still spends his spare time on the slopes. "Skiing is still a very important part of my life," he said. "I love to go to the remotest parts, to the Arctic Circle where there is nobody else for miles around, no ski lifts, just peace and tranquillity."

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