Swiss snowboard supremo
Phillip Schoch’s parallel giant slalom victory over his brother Simon in 2006 saw him become the first man to successfully defend an Olympic snowboarding crown.
On 22 February 2006, during the parallel giant slalom event at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Swiss brothers Simon and Philipp Schoch cruised through their respective rounds to face each other in the final. It was Philipp who emerged victorious over two legs, defending the title he first won in Salt Lake City in 2002. This family combat was only the third time in Winter Olympic history that two brothers have scooped the gold and silver in the same event, after John and Jennison Heaton (USA) in the skeleton at Saint-Moritz 1928 and twins Phil and Steve Mahre in the slalom at Sarajevo 1984. Philipp Schoch’s triumph, the first time a competitor had won gold at two Olympic Games since snowboarding’s introduction at Nagano 1998, established him as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Brothers in sport
At the 2007 World Championships in Arosa (SUI), it was Simon’s turn to gain the upper hand in the ongoing sibling rivalry, as he defeated Phillip in the final of the parallel giant slalom. The two brothers, who are separated by just one year, were encouraged by their father to take up sport at an early age. They both showed promise in other disciplines – Phillip in ‘Schwingen’ (Swiss wrestling) and Simon in mountain biking – before concentrating their energies fully on snowboarding and taking the international circuit by storm.
Upsetting the odds
In Deer Valley, the Utah resort that staged the snowboarding events at the 2002 Games, Schoch, then 23, was not considered one of the favourites for the parallel giant slalom. He had no stand-out results to speak of at World Cup level and had only just advanced to the elimination round, qualifying 15th out of 16. But on 15 February, the native of Winthertur, Zurich (SUI) would prove the bookmakers wrong. Piling early pressure on his adversaries at each stage of the elimination round – Alexander Maier (AUT) in the last 16, Mathieu Bozzetto (FRA) in the quarters and Chris Klug (USA) in the semis – proved a productive tactic, as he suddenly found himself vying for a gold medal. However, his opponent in the final, Sweden’s Richard Richardsson, was too strong in the first leg. But then, in the second instalment of the duel, the Swede wiped out and failed to finish. Schoch, unaware that his opponent was no longer in contention, remained entirely focused until the finish line, before bursting into emotional celebrations. His victory provided Switzerland with its third gold medal of the Games, following Simon Amman’s double success in the ski jumping.