Killy instinct delivers triple gold on the slopes
When the Olympic Winter Games arrived in Grenoble, there was enormous expectation among the French public for a home hero. The obvious focus was Jean-Claude Killy, a charming and hugely talented 24-year-old who exuded confidence but who had to shoulder a huge burden of expectation.
Killy had grown up in the French Alpine village of Val d'Isère, skiing since his youngest days, and had competed in the 1964 Games, without winning a medal. In the intervening years, though, he had blossomed – in the 1966-67 season, for instance, he won 12 of 16 world cup races.
Killy was entered in all three categories at the 1968 Games – downhill, slalom and giant slalom. French fans were keen to see him match the remarkable performance of Austria's Toni Sailer back in 1956, who won all three golds, but the challenge was, if anything, now even more formidable. Sailer had won the downhill with ease; Killy was never likely to have things so easy.
He started with the downhill where the greatest challenge came from another Frenchman, Guy Périllat. He went first and set a time that was unbeaten by the next 13 skiers. But then came Killy, who went 0.08secs faster to take gold.
Next up was the giant slalom, decided, for the first time, by a combination of two runs on separate days rather than a single run. This time, Killy's victory was more emphatic – going fastest on the first run, and then extending his lead to take a second gold.
It left just the slalom for Killy to satisfy those lofty French hopes, and he set the fastest time on the first run. In the second round, in poor weather, he went first, but skied slower, and then had to wait to see if anyone would beat his overall time.
Karl Schranz might have done – but he was controversially disqualified after a race official said he’d missed a gate – but in the end Herbert Huber was the nearest to beating Killy, taking the silver medal 0.09secs behind.
Killy had achieved what France so wanted – three gold medals at his home Olympic Winter Games. “The party went on for two and a half days,” he later said, “and the whole time I never saw the sun once.”