Jean-Claude Killy

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Jean-Claude Killy (born August 30, 1943, in Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, France) is a former champion alpine ski racer, who dominated the sport in the late 1960s. He was a triple Olympic champion, winning all three events at the 1968 Winter Olympics. He also won the first two World Cup titles (1967 & 1968).


Early life

Killy was born in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris, during the Nazi occupation of World War II, but was brought up in Val d'Isère in the Alps, where his family had relocated in 1945 following the war. His father, Robert, was a former fighter pilot for the Free French, and opened a ski shop in the Savoie village, and would later operate a hotel. In 1950, his mother Madeline abandoned the family for another man, leaving Robert to raise Jean-Claude, age 7, his older sister (France), and their infant brother (Mic). Jean-Claude was sent to boarding school in Chambéry, 80 miles (130 km) down the valley, but he despised being shut up in a classroom.

Early career

Killy turned his attention to skiing rather than school. His father allowed him to drop out at age 15, and he made the French national junior team a year later. As a young racer, Killy was fast, but did not usually complete his races, and the early 1960s were less than successful.

In December 1961, Killy won his first international race, a giant slalom. It was especially sweet because the event took place in his home village of Val-d'Isere and because he had started 39th, a position that should have been a severe disadvantage. Killy was 18.

The French coach picked Killy for the giant slalom in the 1962 World Championships in Chamonix, France, 50 miles (80 km) away in the shadow of Mont Blanc. It would be, he felt, a great French debut for this teenager. But Killy, who didn't know he had been selected, was still attempting to qualify for the downhill event in northeastern Italy. In Cortina, only three weeks before the worlds were to begin, Killy skiied in a race in his typical hell-bent, devil-may-care style. About two hundred yards (182 m) from the finish Killy hit a stretch of ice in a compression and went down, rose immediately, then crossed the finish on just one ski—and the fastest time. Unfortunately, his other leg was broken, and he watched the World Championships on crutches.

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