Italy’s Eugenio Monti came to these Games as one of the most celebrated bobsleigh athletes of the time, and not just for his sporting ability. Four years before, he and his support team had twice come to the rescue of rivals. In the two-man competition, he had supplied a crucial spare bolt to the British team of Tony Nash and Robin Dixon, who went on to win gold. In the four-man competition, Monti’s mechanics repaired the Canadian sled, which also went on to win gold. In both events, Monti went home with a bronze medal. He was later awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for his sportsmanship.
In Grenoble, he continued to focus on both competitions. His first Olympic Games had been at Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956, when he left with two silvers, and now, at the age of 40, he knew his career was in its final stages. His Olympic medal collection now comprised two bronzes and two silvers. He came to France in search of two golds. Remarkably, he won both.
The two-man contest could not have been closer. At the start of the final run, West Germany I, piloted by Horst Floth, led by a tenth of a second from Monti’s Italy I sled. The Italians went first and broke the track record. The German response was impressive – but they finished a tenth of a second slower. With both crews setting exactly the same cumulative time, gold went to Italy on the basis of producing the single fastest run.
Buoyed by his first Olympic gold, Monti coped with difficult conditions in the four-man contest to again lead his team to success. Once more, the margin was tiny – less than 0.1secs over two runs – but he did win his second gold, and so became the first man to win both bobsleigh events at the same Olympic Winter Games.
It was the last race of his illustrious career. Monti retired with six Olympic medals, nine world titles and the enduring respect of the Olympic family. He went on to become manager of the Italian bobsleigh team.