Switzerland’s Paul Accola was the strong favourite for the men’s Alpine combined. He had won all three events in the run-up to the Games and looked to be a near certainty for a medal. Marc Giradelli of Luxembourg was also in fine form and many expected the battle for gold to be fought out between these two.
However, at the eleventh hour, the weather had a dramatic impact on the outlook. The night before the skiers took to the course for the first segment of the event – the downhill – there was heavy snowfall and the start was delayed to allow workers to prepare the piste.
After more than two hours of waiting, the first skier finally emerged from the start-gate. It was Giradelli, yet no sooner had he started his run than it was over, courtesy of a spectacular fall.
He was not the only skier to struggle. Accola made it to the bottom, but only after a cautious run that left him just fifth fastest, though still ahead of all of his main rivals.
The Swiss took to the slalom course in confident mood, but missed an early gate and that ended his chances. The focus then switched to defending champion Hubert Strolz who was supreme on his first slalom run. On the second, though, he made an extraordinary error – losing his concentration and missing a gate 30m before the finishing line. He was disqualified, and that meant that the title was now well and truly up for grabs.
The man to seize the chance was Italy's Josef Polig, a rank outsider. He had never finished higher than fifth in a World Cup race and had hardly caught the eye so far in Albertville. He placed sixth in the downhill section and fifth in the slalom but, amidst all the wipeouts and errors, his overall score was still good enough to earn him what was a remarkable victory.