Toni Sailer, 73
A Kitzbühel plumber by trade, Sailer pulled off a historic sweep of the three Alpine skiing events at the 1956 Olympics. The 21-year-old Black Blitz from Kitz won his first gold, in the giant slalom, by a staggering 6.2 seconds. Three years later he stopped skiing competitively to focus on acting and singing. His brief career on the slopes made a lasting impression: He was voted Switzerland's top athlete of the 20th century.
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In a video tribute, SI writers Tim Layden, Jack McCallum and Tom Verducci provide their perspectives on those who died in 2009. Watch the clips, produced by Jesse and Nate Gordon, at SI.com/video