SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
February 19, 1968
Up in the gusty mountains above Grenoble it was believed that stubborn old Avery Brundage, who has this hangup about amateurism, would stand at the finish line of the Alpine events in the Winter Olympics with his legs planted and his arms outstretched, and that Jean-Claude Killy and the others would have to plunge through him—blazer, patch, pin, ideals and all—to get a medal of any kind unless their skis were painted, oh, polka-dot purple and pink, with no trademarks visible. Ski racers are pros, suggested Brundage, because the manufacturers pay them to let the world know what boards they are sliding on. Not that anyone would discover it in Grenoble. Fog continually moving in and out obscured everything: skis, skiers and the spectator next to you. Then, suddenly, another problem arose for Killy, the glamour personality of these Games. Could he race well over the scattered bones of the U.S. team? American boy parts and girl parts were being spread across the slopes like Bela Lugosi's favorite buffet. Talking to an American racer almost any time meant bending down and peeking in the snow. Finally, however, out of all of this agony and frustration, down roared Jean-Claude Killy to capture the biggest, most dangerous event of them all, the men's downhill, to add another gold medal in giant slalom and to transplant himself forever into the throbbing heart of France.
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February 19, 1968

Over The Scattered Bones Came Jean-claude

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And so they were. While no one was about to outski Killy in the combined giant slalom runs of Sunday and Monday, especially since he was relieved of some immense pressure after his downhill win, the Americans began to come on. Killy led the first run by 1.2 seconds.

Second to Killy was a stranger to lofty standings, Willy Favre, one of those Swiss who have been surprisingly good this year in heavy snow. But the U.S. had decent runs from Kidd (eighth) and Jimmy Heuga (seventh), and thus some chance for a medal.

On Monday, however, the fog curled up around Chamrousse again, a light snow fell, and it was obvious that the course would be soft—Swiss soft, Willy Favre soft—with poor visibility added. This wasn't good for Heuga's No. 1 starting position, and he wound up 10th. "I wasn't sure what to do, whether to play safe and get down or charge at it," he said. "I was in between."

Billy Kidd, sore ankle and all, started eighth and was slow up at the top. But with a fluid finish on a course getting swifter before ruts set in for the late starters, he posted the fastest run of the day and climbed to a fifth-place over-all finish. He was just half a second—an ankle tweak, if you will—away from a bronze medal, behind Killy, Favre, Heini Messner and Guy P�rillat.

All of this cheered up the U.S. and increased the excitement for the slalom which lay ahead, but in Killy country it furnished no more than a pleasant backdrop for Jean-Claude's continuing magic.

For the French ski fan, however, who was being told daily in some of the stickiest, most sentimental prose ever turned out by the European press that Killy was immortal, grand, sweet, cute, legendary, honest and cuddly, there was scarcely anything left for Jean-Claude to prove after the downhill. Of course, by winning the giant slalom he had an opportunity to dangle three golds around his neck as Toni Sailer did at Cortina in 1956. He can do that by taking the slalom on Saturday, probably in the presence of none other than Charles de Gaulle and nine million confused policemen. That would be something else. For most ecstatic Frenchmen, though, Killy did his big number in the downhill.

Killy had not been sensational in the season's early races. He had sulked after losing two previous downhills and had fallen twice in slalom. He had been intimidated by the pressure. Then at Grenoble he had got into the unexpected dilemma of Avery Brundage's complaints about commercialism, which were so blunt that it was honestly felt for a few hours that the Alpine events might be barred from the whole affair. After the typical face-saving compromise was reached, Killy seemed both de-pressurized and a little contemptuous.

"It is all a game," he said.

It was the racers themselves, those in the first seeding group, who canceled the downhill on the day it was originally scheduled. Up on top, the wind howled. The racers gathered in a group and decided they didn't want to battle the gusts and allow a fellow starting 88th to catch a calm and win the big one.

There was wind the next day, but not as much. It was a little warmer, and it looked to Killy, who would start 14th, as if the course might develop ruts quickly. It was obvious that Guy P�rillat's first starting position was an advantage. His time of 1:59.93, a record for the slope and two full seconds under the best nonstop time, was holding nicely. Austria's big guns, Gerhard Nenning, an early-season hero on the circuit, Karl Schranz and Heini Messner, all failed to overtake P�rillat, a quiet, 28-year-old married man who says he will now retire, finally.

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