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One of the dominant figures in men’s alpine skiing in the 1980s and 1990s, Marc Giradelli created a lasting legacy in his sport, and helped put Luxembourg on the Olympic map.
For a decade, from the mid-eighties through to the mid-nineties, Marc Girardelli’s name was synonymous with success at the Olympic Winter Games, the World Skiing Championships and on the Alpine Skiing World Cup circuit, where his regular duels with Switzerland’s Pirmin Zurbriggen in the speed events (downhill and super-G), and Italy’s Alberto Tomba in the technical disciplines (giant slalom and slalom) became the stuff of legends. Although born, raised and trained in Austria, he opted to ski in the colours of Luxembourg, earning the name ‘the Austro-Luxembourger’.
Girardelli was the consummate all-rounder, excelling in each of the five alpine disciplines (downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G and combined), and racking up numerous victories in the top international competitions. In total, he won the overall World Cup title a record five times, to go with two small Crystal Globes in the downhill, three in the slalom, one in the giant slalom and another four in the combined. He also notched up 11 World Alpine Skiing Championship medals, and two Olympic silvers, both at Albertville 1992, in the super-G and the giant.
Born in 1963, in the Austrian town of Lustenau, near the border with Switzerland, Girardelli was learning to ski virtually as soon as he could walk. Early on he developed a taste for competing, and was among the most talented skiers in each of the age categories. At 11, he won the Topolino race, which is widely regarded as the top international competition for young skiers. Soon after, he was invited to enrol at the prestigious Schruns ski academy, but separated from his father, who had guided his development until then, he was unable to settle. The teenage Girardelli had an uneasy relationship with his coaches, and rather than try to break through in Austria, where the competition was intensely fierce, when he was 13, he and his father decided that it would make sense to move to Luxembourg.
After being granted a sporting passport, he began to represent the Grand Duchy on the piste, making his debut on the senior international circuit. Initially, he competed in FIS races and the European Cup, before graduating to the World Cup and the grand prix events. However, due to conflict over his nationality, he missed out on the 1980 and 1984 Winter Games. Having been granted official citizenship of Luxembourg, he finally made his Olympic debut in 1988, but had to wait another four years, until Albertville 1992 to get on the podium. went on to establish himself as one of the finest exponents of his sport in a generation, and indeed of all time.