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Jean-Claude Killy The Frenchman Sweeps Grenoble

Jean-Claude Killy  The Frenchman Sweeps Grenoble

There is typically always a lot of pressure on the shoulders of an athlete, especially entering the Olympic Games. Athletes face off with their peers, who just so happen to be the absolute best of the best. So for any athlete entering the Games, the pressure is there.

However, this pressure increases exponentially when the Olympics are being held in an athlete’s home country and that athlete is subsequently expected to sweep the events to play the hero of the nation. Such was the case with Jean-Claude Killy of France at the 1968 Games in Grenoble, and despite facing that amount of pressure, Killy did not disappoint.

Jean-Claude Killy

Born on August 30, 1943 in Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, France, Jean-Claude Killy is a retired alpine ski racer who dominated the field throughout the late 1960s and eventually became one of the most popular athletes in France’s celebrated history.

Killy was born directly into the war-torn landscape of France, as the Nazi occupation was in full swing. After the war, he and his family were relocated and his father would eventually open up a ski shop. This is where Killy would learn to love the sport, and he became a great skier at the age of 15, after his father allowed him to quit school. He earned a spot on the French national junior team at 16, but the early half of the 1960s saw far more failures than successes.

Killy Lives up to Heroic Expectations

During a short stint with the French Army in Algeria in 1962, Killy contracted hepatitis and dysentery, which would plague him for years to come. When he entered the 1964 Winter Olympics, his illnesses began acting up and Killy never stood a chance. Although he was the favorite in the giant slalom, he fell right after the start and never recovered. Though after the Games, he quickly started to improve on the world stage, winning the 1966 World Championships and doing very well in the World Cup ’67 season.

Leading up to the Winter Games in Grenoble, the entire nation was looking at Killy to keep the gold medals in France for the ski racing events. This was a challenge Jean-Claude would accept gladly, having won 12 of his 16 races the previous year. Even still, the pressure was mounting and anything less than gold in all 3 Olympic events would undoubtedly be considered a disappointment.

There were other French athletes in the alpine events, including Guy Perillat, Alain Penz, and Georges Mauduit, but Killy had qualified for all 3 events and was obviously the best skier of the bunch. The first race on the docket was the downhill. Jean-Claude and Guy were running neck-in-neck for much of the race, with Killy beating his fellow countryman by only a tenth of a second. In the giant slalom, Killy performed much better. He had a lot of competition from Perillat and Willy Favre from Switzerland, but Killy beat Favre by a 2-second margin to claim his second gold medal of the Games.

The third and final race, the slalom, was the one needed to complete the sweep. The pressure was obviously weighing heavy on Killy’s shoulders, and this was apparent with the way Killy was skiing. He wasn’t at the very top of his game, but he was still ahead on the leader board after his second run.

His rival in this competition, Karl Schranz, ended up skidding to a halt and claiming that someone had crossed his path on the slopes. The judges granted Karl a redo, and he would ultimately beat Killy’s time and be declared the winner. But just as quickly as Killy’s hopes for a sweep were dashed, the Jury of Appeals completely disqualified Schranz and awarded Killy the win.

Killy’s sweep of the races at Grenoble made him a national hero. Though he wouldn’t compete in any further Olympic Games, his gutsy performance in Grenoble will live on forever.

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