1968: An Avalanche Named Killy
A controversial sweep in alpine skiing
by John Gettings
Already the defending World Cup champion, French skiing legend Jean-Claude Killy was well on his way to his second straight Cup championship in 1968 when he took time out to make Olympic history.
The brash 24-year-old dazzled the world at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France, by winning gold medals in all three Alpine skiing events. He was only the second skier to ever accomplish that feat (Austria's Toni Sailer did it in 1956), and since then no skier has won more than two Alpine events at any one Olympic Games.
The sweep did not come without controversy, however. In the slalom, Haakon Mjoen of Norway and Karl Schranz of Austria both posted better times than Killy but were disqualified for missing gates.
The performance came amidst the anti-commercialism storm brewed by International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage. Frustrated by the ski industry's pervasive advertising techniques, Brundage singled out the Alpine ski organizations and the skiers themselves, for being too lenient and compromising the concept of "amateur status."
Killy had been criticized for allowing the company trademarks on his equipment to "inadvertently" appear in post-race photographs in exchange for under-the-table payments.
By not attending the 1968 Alpine skiing medal ceremonies, Brundage sent a clear message of his contempt.
Regardless, Killy's uncanny brand of instinctive, speed-at-all-costs skiing single-handedly rejuvenated France's national ski team, and his Olympic performance set the tone for France's fourth-place finish and best-ever medal haul (nine medals).
Killy's skiing triple crown in 1968 made him the most recognized skier of his generation and cemented his place in Winter Olympics history.