Jean-Claude Killy

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Jean-Claude Killy : biography

30 August 1943 –

The ski area of Val d’Isère and Tignes in the French Alps was given the name l’Espace Killy, in his honor.

Jean-Claude Killy became Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur in 2000.

Intrawest credits Jean-Claude Killy with the design of a ski trail, "Cupp Run," at their Snowshoe resort in West Virginia.

Early career

Killy turned his attention to skiing rather than school. His father allowed him to drop out at age 15, and he made the French national junior team a year later. As a young racer, Killy was fast, but did not usually complete his races, and the early 1960s were not entirely successful for him.

In December 1961, at age 18, Killy won his first international race, a giant slalom. The event took place in his home village of Val-d’Isere. Killy had started 39th, a position that should have been a severe disadvantage.

The French coach picked Killy for the giant slalom in the 1962 World Championships in Chamonix, France, 50 miles (80 km) away in the shadow of Mont Blanc. But Killy, unaware of his selection, was still attempting to qualify for the downhill event in northeastern Italy at Cortina d’Ampezzo. Only three weeks before the world championships, he skied in his typical reckless style. About two hundred yards (180 m) from the finish, Killy hit a stretch of ice in a compression and went down, rose immediately, then crossed the finish on just one ski—and the fastest time. Unfortunately, his other leg was broken, and he watched the 1962 World Championships on crutches.

Two years later, at age 20, Killy was entered in all three of the men’s events at the 1964 Olympics, because his coach wanted to prepare him for 1968. Unfortunately, Killy was plagued by recurrences of amoebic dysentery and hepatitis, ailments that he had contracted in 1962 during a summer of compulsory service with the French Army in Algeria. His form was definitely off, and he fell a few yards after the start of the downhill, lost a binding in the slalom, and finished fifth in the giant slalom, in which he had been the heavy favorite.

Although the first half of the decade was a relative disappointment, Killy begin to improve his results in August 1966. Killy won his first downhill race against an international field at the 1966 World Championships in Portillo, Chile in August, and also took gold in the combined. Killy was peaking as the first World Cup season was launched in January 1967, with the 1968 Winter Olympics in France only a year away.