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Eugenio Monti - A Fierce Force at Forty

Eugenio Monti - A Fierce Force at Forty Every once in a while there is an athlete who, despite age taking its toll, manages to go out on top. Such is the case with Eugenio Monti in the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble. Monti is the classic tale of an athlete who fell short for his entire career before taking the entire world by surprise with the proverbial last hurrah. Although it has been more than 50 years, Monti is still a revered name in Italian athletics and amongst Olympian aficionados who appreciate heartwarming stories of triumph against the odds.

Eugenio Monti

Born October 23, 1928 in Toblach, Italy, Eugenio Monti, known as The Flying Redhead, was an Italian skier who competed professionally and actually did quite well in the championship circuit before switching over to the bobsleigh. Although Eugenio passed away in 2003, his memory lives on in the hearts of many Italians who recognize what a gifted athlete Monti really was.

Monti competed in five different Olympic Games for Italy in the bobsled, two and four-man, winning two silver medals in 1956 and two bronze medals in 1964. While most believed Monti's athletic days were behind him, he shocked the nation and even the world by competing in the 1968 Games in Grenoble.

The Last Ride of Eugenio Monti

After winning two silver medals in the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Monti was hoping to improve on that by taking gold at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley, California. However, due to unprecedented economic reasons, the bobsled race wasn't even held, leaving Monti without a sport to compete in. That didn't stop his World Championship circuit competitions, but it did put a damper on things at the time. Even still, Eugenio was more than ready to face down the 1964 Games, as a 36-year-old athlete on the downside of his career.

The Winter Olympics in Innsbruck in 1964 was the year the sporting world believed the Italians would finally take gold. However, fate had other plans for Monti and his teammate. After learning that the British bobsledders broke their sled and needed a bolt, Monti lent them the part only to have the British pair of Robin Dixon and Tony Nash run a spectacular time and claim the gold. Monti and his partner were shocked by the turn of events and ultimately ended up with a bronze medal, but they never felt that the bolt made the difference. And if that weren't enough to cement Monti's legacy as a true sportsman, he also lent parts to the Canadian bobsled team, who would also go on to win the gold in the four-man race. For his efforts, Monti was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal – a sportsmanship award.

By the time 1968 rolled around, Monti was a 40-year-old athlete who no one considered good enough to take a medal in the Olympic Games, much less a gold. He was, at this point in his career, considered a solid bobsledder whose biggest contribution to the game was his uncanny sportsmanship. But Monti never gave up on his dreams of winning Olympic Gold.

Monti and his Italian teammates had qualified for two bobsled events in Grenoble, France – the two and four-man bobsled race. Going up against a great German team and a fast British team, Monti won gold in the two-man race, surprising everyone. Then, in the four-man race, Monti and his Italian teammates shocked the world yet again by claiming another gold medal. Eugenio, at 40, had finally realized his Olympic dreams and claimed two gold medals. He became the only non-German to ever accomplish that feat, and was also awarded the civilian medal of Commendatore of the Italian Republic.

Monti began suffering from Parkinson's later in life and never returned to sports in any capacity. Even still, his memory continues to live on throughout Italy and the entire world of bobsledding.

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