Cochran defends family honour
Remarkably, there were three members of the Cochran family competing in the Alpine events in Sapporo 1972. Siblings Marilyn, Bob and Barbara had all been coached from a young age by their father in their native Vermont, and had gone on to compete internationally.
Marilyn and Bob were in action in the women’s and men’s slalom, giant slalom and downhill respectively, but neither came close to a place on the podium. Barbara, meanwhile focused her efforts on the giant slalom and slalom. She took a creditable 11th place in the former, before focusing her attention to the slalom – the final chance for the Cochran family to return home with a medal.
She was the first skier out of the gate in the opening run and delivered a strong performance, reaching the bottom in 46.05 seconds. She then watched on as a succession of other skiers tried, and failed, to beat her time.
France's Danièle Debernard was just 0.03 seconds slower, while another Frenchwoman, Britt Lafforgue - the pre-race favourite - was 0.18 seconds behind.
Many expected Lafforgue to push for victory on the second run. Instead, she missed a gate and was immediately disqualified. So it was now a two-way contest between Debernard and Cochran. Could they keep up the standards they had set in the opening descent? The answer was an emphatic “yes”.
Debernard went quickest overall, but Cochran was just 0.01 seconds slower. Remarkably that meant that just 0.02 seconds separated the pair over the course of the two runs, with Cochran taking the gold medal.
The medal ceremony marked the end of the American’s skiing career. She later became an author and newspaper journalist. Debernard went on to add a bronze medal in 1976 and ended her Olympic career having finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th but never 1st, over the course of four appearances at the Games