Alpine Skiing - Piccard does it his way
Calgary 1988 saw the Olympic debut of the super giant slalom. It had first appeared on the international scene seven years earlier, and had been included on the World Cup programme in 1983.
Switzerland’s Pirmin Zurbriggen, generally regarded as the finest all-round skier in the world, was hotly tipped to win the inaugural Olympic super-G gold. He had already earned a gold medal in the downhill after producing an astonishing run to edge out his great rival and compatriot Peter Müller. Taking the bronze in that event had been Frenchman Franck Piccard. Despite finishing more than a second off the pace, his medal seemed to inspire Piccard and six days later he went into the super-G full of energy and purpose.
The Frenchman, who had been named in honour of Frank Sinatra, set off fifth and reached the bottom in 1 minute 39.66 seconds. It was a good time, but Piccard was not happy, berating himself for not going quicker. He felt he had made a series of small mistakes that cost him time and feared his chance of another medal had gone.
Instead, he watched as the rest of the front-runners made just as many mistakes. Nobody managed to produce a truly clear run, and some failed to stay on their skis; it soon became obvious that Piccard's time had left him with a real chance of another podium finish. After Zurbriggen produced a subdued run, the Frenchman’s place at the top of the timing sheet suddenly looked a certainty.
Much to his own surprise, he found himself clutching a gold medal, and to cap it off he even received a telegram from Frank Sinatra, congratulating him on his victory.