At the first interval Killy had the best time by far, but then the micro film of wax remaining on his skis wore off, and as Bonnet recalls, "He was losing speed, losing speed with every meter he raced. He was slowing the whole last half of the course. If he had had to go another two meters, he could not have won."
But Killy used his secret shortcut and won by a scant .08 of a second over his teammate Guy P�rillat. Next, Killy easily won the GS, and the following weekend he pulled out the gold in an infamous slalom race that was marred by dense fog and long arguments about who—if anyone—missed gates in the soup.
Thus the myth—and the millionaire—were born. He was 24.
They have named it 1'Espace Killy, the massive region of mixed skiing terrain that looms above Val-d'ls�re and Tignes, its neighboring village. L'Espace Killy is where the men's alpine events, except for the special slalom, will be held at the '92 Olympics. The downhill course, designed by former Swiss racer Bernhard Russi, is a daredevil's masterpiece, a steep and tortuous brute that stood out in the early snowless weeks of winter as a wild, fresh scar against the brown rocks and soil.
Killy dipped his helicopter low over 1'Espace Killy so the joys and terrors of Russi's creation could be more clearly seen. Then he pulled the chopper up to eye level with the highest nearby peaks and set a course for the rest of his Olympic domain. It was breathtaking stuff, a mountain kingdom stretching as far as the eye could see, with the ancient crown of Mont Blanc ruling over all of it. Killy used a delicate touch of fingers and feet to pilot his craft over each of the widely spread—and widely different—villages and venues.
He spoke easily over the purr of the copter: "There is Tignes, where the freestyle skiing will be. It was Val-d'Is�re's fierce rival for 200 years, but when they built the new dam you see there, they simply let the water cover up and drown the old village, and they built everything new.... There is Les Arcs, where the speed-skiing demonstrations will be. It was built from scratch only 20 years ago.... And there is Courchevel, where the ski jumps are. It is the St. Moritz of the Savoie. The IOC will stay at the Byblos Hotel, which some people think is the best in the mountains.... There is La Plagne and the bob-luge course.... And there is Moutiers, where the press center will be. It has been a busy old town since the time of the Crusades.... There is Les Saisies with the cross-country ski track cut in a clearing in the trees in the form of the five Olympic rings."
After an hour in the air, he headed back up the Tarentaise Valley. Val-d'ls�re soon came into sight, a not terribly attractive collection of tacky new and cozy old architecture lying at the base of magnificent 1'Espace Killy. Killy looked down at his village and smiled.
"You know," he said, "if I had had my way after the 1968 Olympic season, I would never have left this place. I really was a shy boy of the Savoie. In our world of skiing in those days, when you retired, you didn't go out and get rich. You went home and taught skiing or opened a shop. I wanted to go home to Val-d'ls�re, and I talked to the mayor about becoming a paid representative of the office of tourism. I asked for maybe $1,000 a month, but he said it was far too much money and that there was no opening for me. Then my life took care of itself."
The shy boy of the Savoie signed a contract with McCormack's firm in May 1968, and the big money began pouring in. Said Killy, "When I signed with Mark, I had told him that there were two things I didn't like: traveling and meeting strangers at cocktail parties. He said, 'No problem.' " Killy laughed. Since then, he figures, he has visited 55 countries, including the U.S. about 200 times and Japan 25 times. As for meeting strangers, only a candidate for the American presidency has pressed more unknown flesh than Killy.
He dabbled in car racing, cut many commercials, returned at age 29 for a season as a professional ski racer in the U.S. (he finished first on the circuit) and made two TV series—The Killy Style, a 13-week series in which he introduced a different ski resort each week, and The Killy Challenge, in which he raced with a handicap against former champions and celebrities. For a while Moet Chan-don paid him handsomely merely to have a bottle of its champagne on his table wherever he went.