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Jean-Claude Killy

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Jean-Claude Killy
Jean-Claude Killy in Moscow in May 2012
Personal information
Born (1943-08-30) 30 August 1943 (age 80)
Saint-Cloud, Seine-et-Oise, France
OccupationAlpine skier
Height178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Skiing career
DisciplinesDownhill, giant slalom, slalom, combined
World Cup debutJanuary 1967 (age 23)
inaugural season
RetiredApril 1968 (age 24) (World Cup) - November 1972 (age 29) Again from 1976 (World Pro Ski Tour)
Teams2 – (1964, 1968)
Medals3 (3 gold)
World Championships
Teams4 – (1962, 1964, 1966, 1968)
  includes two Olympics
  (injured in 1962)
Medals6 (6 gold)
World Cup
Seasons2 – (1967, 1968)
Wins18 – (6 DH, 7 GS, 5 SL)
Podiums24 – (8 DH, 9 GS, 7 SL)
Overall titles2 – (1967, '68)
Discipline titles4 – (1 DH, 2 GS, 1 SL)
Medal record
Men's alpine skiing
Representing  France
World Cup race podiums
Event 1st 2nd 3rd
Slalom 5 1 1
Giant slalom 7 1 1
Downhill 6 1 1
Total 18 3 3
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Downhill
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Giant slalom
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Slalom
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1966 Portillo Downhill
Gold medal – first place 1966 Portillo Combined
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Downhill
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Giant slalom
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Slalom
Gold medal – first place 1968 Grenoble Combined

Jean-Claude Killy (born 30 August 1943) is a French former World Cup alpine ski racer. He dominated the sport in the late 1960s, and was a triple Olympic champion, winning the three alpine events at the 1968 Winter Olympics, becoming the most successful athlete there. He also won the first two World Cup titles, in 1967 and 1968.

Early life[edit]

Killy was born in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris, during the German occupation of World War II, but was brought up in Val-d'Isère in the Alps, where his family had relocated in 1945 following the war. His father, Robert, was a former Spitfire pilot for the Free French, and opened a ski shop in the Savoie village, and would later operate a hotel. In 1950, his mother Madeline abandoned the family for another man, leaving Robert to raise Jean-Claude, age 7, his older sister (France), and their infant brother (Mic). Jean-Claude was sent to boarding school in Chambéry, 80 miles (130 km) down the valley, but he despised being shut up in a classroom.[1]

Early career[edit]

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.[1]

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'Isère. Killy had started 39th, a position that should have been a severe disadvantage.[1]

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.[1]

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.[1] Yet a few weeks later, he dominated a giant slalom race at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria, counting for the prestigious Arlberg-Kandahar events, the oldest 'classic' in the sport. A year later, he also triumphed at another major competition, the slalom of the Hahnenkamm races at Kitzbühel that he clinched three times in a row until 1967.

Although the first half of the decade was a relative disappointment, Killy began to strongly improve his results afterwards to become one of the best technical ski racers. In August 1966, the Frenchman, nicknamed 'Toutoune' by some of his colleagues and friends, scored his first win in a downhill race against an international field at the 1966 World Championships in Portillo, Chile, 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.

Dominance – 1967–68[edit]

World Cup results[edit]

Season standings[edit]

Season Age Overall Slalom Giant
Super G Downhill Combined
1967 23 1 1 1 not
1 not
1968 24 1 2 1 2

Season titles[edit]

  • 6 titles – (2 overall, 1 DH, 2 GS, 1 SL)
Season Discipline
1967 Overall
Giant slalom
1968 Overall
Giant slalom

Race victories[edit]

  • 18 wins – (6 DH, 7 GS, 5 SL)
  • 24 podiums – (8 DH, 9 GS, 7 SL)
Season Date Location Discipline
1967 9 Jan 1967  Switzerland Adelboden, Switzerland Giant slalom
14 Jan 1967  Switzerland Wengen, Switzerland Downhill
15 Jan 1967 Slalom
21 Jan 1967 Austria Kitzbühel, Austria Downhill
22 Jan 1967 Slalom
27 Jan 1967 France Megève, France Downhill
3 Mar 1967 Italy Sestriere, Italy Downhill
10 Mar 1967 United States Franconia, NH, USA Downhill
11 Mar 1967 Slalom
12 Mar 1967 Giant slalom
19 Mar 1967 United States Vail, CO, USA Giant slalom
25 Mar 1967 United States Jackson, WY, USA Giant slalom
1968 8 Jan 1968  Switzerland Adelboden, Switzerland Giant slalom
9 Feb 1968 France Grenoble, France
1968 Winter Olympics ^
12 Feb 1968 Giant slalom
17 Feb 1968 Slalom
10 Mar 1968 France Méribel, France Giant slalom
29 Mar 1968 Canada Rossland, BC, Canada Slalom

^ Results from the 1968 Winter Olympics (and 1970 World Championships) were included in the World Cup standings.

Killy was the first World Cup champion in 1967, winning 12 of 17 races to easily take the overall title. He also won the season standings in each of the three "classic" alpine disciplines; he won all five of the downhill races and four of the five giant slalom races.

The following year, Killy won the triple crown of alpine skiing with a sweep of all three Olympic gold medals (downhill, giant slalom, and slalom) in controversial circumstances at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. By finishing first in all races, he also captured the FIS world championship title in the combined event.

Electrical timing by Omega was accurate to one-hundredth of a second. Killy relied on his upper-body strength to hit the bar while already moving forward, giving himself a slight edge. This spectacular start appears to have helped him to beat his teammate Guy Perillat by a few hundredths in the Olympic downhill.

With the Olympic events included (for the only time) in the World Cup standings, Killy easily defended his title in 1968 as the overall champion, placing first in the giant slalom and second in the downhill and slalom season standings. He retired following the 1968 season, and moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1969.

World Championship results[edit]

 Year   Age   Slalom  Giant
Super-G Downhill Combined
1962 18 not run
1964 20 DNF1 5 42
1966 22 8 5 1 1
1968 24 1 1 1 1

From 1948 through 1980, the Winter Olympics were also the World Championships for alpine skiing.
At the World Championships from 1954 through 1980, the combined was a "paper race" using the results of the three events (DH, GS, SL).

1962: injured

Olympic results[edit]

 Year   Age   Slalom  Giant
Super-G Downhill Combined
1964 20 DNF1 5 not run 42 not run
1968 24 1 1 1

Post-Olympic career[edit]

Killy's success in Grenoble could not have come at a more opportune time for him: the 1968 Winter Olympics were the first to be extensively televised, in color, by the American Broadcasting Company. His all-conquering success, combined with his Gallic flair and looks, made him an overnight celebrity in the United States, especially amongst young women. In May 1968, Killy signed with International Management Group, the sports management firm headed by Mark McCormack. After racing on Dynamic VR17 and Rossignol skis during the part of his career when he was dominant, Killy signed a deal with Head Ski in the fall 1968 to endorse a metal and fiberglass ski named for him, the Killy 800.[2][3] Head, which was acquired by AMF the following year, manufactured a line of Killy skis for at least two years.

In April 1969, he was awarded the Helms World Trophy.[4]

In television advertisements, Killy promoted the American Express card. He also became a spokesman for Schwinn bicycles, United Airlines, and Chevrolet automobiles; the last, a role detailed by journalist Hunter S. Thompson in his 1970 article "The Temptations of Jean-Claude Killy" for Scanlan's Monthly.

Killy starred as a ski instructor in the 1972 crime movie Snow Job, released in the UK as The Ski Raiders, and US TV as The Great Ski Caper. American children in the early 1970s knew Killy from a TV commercial where he introduces himself, his thick accent making his name into "Chocolate Kitty." Killy played himself in the 1983 movie Copper Mountain: A Club Med Experience, starring Jim Carrey and Alan Thicke, set at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Killy also stars in the noteworthy TV movie Peggy Fleming at Sun Valley (1971), in which he performs some remarkable skiing tricks alongside the three-time ice skating World Champion Peggy Fleming.

Jean-Claude Killy also had a short career as a racing driver between 1967 and 1970, participating in several car races including at Monza. Killy entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1969, partnered with Bob Wollek, another former skier turned racing driver. Killy and Wollek's car led its class for a while before pulling out of the race with only four hours to go. In team with fellow Frenchman Bernard Cahier, Killy was 7th overall in the 1967 Targa Florio in a Porsche 911 S and first in the GT classification.

In November 1972, Killy came out of ski racing retirement at age 29 to compete on the pro circuit in the U.S. for two seasons. After a spirited challenge from two-time defending champion Spider Sabich, Killy won the 1973 season title, taking $28,625 in race winnings and a $40,000 bonus for the championship.[5][6] He missed the next season, won by Hugo Nindl,[7] due to a recurring stomach ailment, then returned in the fall of 1974.[8][9][10] Injuries slowed him and he finished well out of the 1975 standings, won by Hank Kashiwa.

In addition to trying his skill as a car racer, Killy made two television series. One, The Killy Style, was a thirteen-week series that showcased various ski resorts, and the other, The Killy Challenge, featured him racing against celebrities, who were all given handicaps. He was also sponsored by a champagne company, Moët & Chandon, which paid him to be seen with a bottle of their champagne on his table everywhere he went. In 1974 Killy, as part of this sponsorship deal was paid to ski down the previously unskied eastern slope of Mt Ngauruhoe (Peter Jackson's "Mt Doom") in New Zealand. The average slope on this side of the active volcano is 35 degrees. Radar recorded his speed at over 100 mph (160 km/h), and it took two takes, as cloud cover spoiled the first.

In 1975, Killy was hired to lead the new ski operations at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, a resort in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania.[11][12][13] In 1983, Bob Gillen wrote in Ski magazine about the growing reputation of Shawnee Mountain as a ski area. He stated, "Some of the initial interest was stimulated by hiring Jean-Claude Killy to represent the facility, and for several seasons he spent a number of days there. The first time my wife ever skied with me, I saw Killy flash by at Shawnee—he was fast and smooth and he stopped frequently to check the time on his Rolex."[11]

From 1977 to 1994, he was a member of the Executive board of the Alpine Skiing Committee of the FIS. Killy served as co-president of the 1992 Winter Olympics, held in Albertville, France, and as the President of the Société du Tour de France cycling race between 1992 and 2001. From 1995 to 2014, he was a member of the International Olympic Committee and chaired the coordination committee for Turin 2006 and Sochi 2014.[14] He has been an Honorary Member since then.[15]

Killy tried his hand at distance running and competed in the 1983 New York City Marathon, finishing in 3:58:33.[16]

The ski area of Val-d'Isère and Tignes in the French Alps was given the name l'Espace Killy, in his honor.[17][18]

Killy became Grand Officer of the Légion d'honneur in 2000.

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

Personal life[edit]

From 1973 to 1987, he was married to French actress Danielle Gaubert, until her death from cancer. Together they had a daughter, Émilie; he also adopted her two children from her first marriage to Rhadamés Trujillo, the son of Rafael Trujillo, the assassinated dictator of the Dominican Republic. Gaubert and Trujillo were divorced in 1968 and later that year she met Killy. He is known for being friends with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.[19][1] In an interview for the 1972 documentary Elvis on Tour, Elvis Presley named Jean-Claude as his favorite skier.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, William Oscar (12 February 1990). "Killy: A Man and his Kingdom". Sports Illustrated. pp. 206–218. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  2. ^ Miller, Hack (11 November 1968). "Killy signs at Head Skis". Deseret News. p. C-1.
  3. ^ "French trio backs new ski". Montreal Gazette. 1 April 1969. p. 45.
  4. ^ "Jean Claude Killy receives helms world trophy; The famous French ski champion received the award from the hands" (photo). Alamy. Retrieved 3 January 2024.
  5. ^ Brown, Gwilym S. (16 April 1973). "Goodby, [sic] Broadway, Hello, Schranz". Sports Illustrated. p. 66. Archived from the original on 14 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Killy pro champion". Montreal Gazette. 9 April 1973. p. 18.
  7. ^ "Top pro Hugo Nindl wins in final slalom". Montreal Gazette. Associated Press. 4 April 1974. p. 23.
  8. ^ Moss, Marv (25 October 1974). "Fully-fit Killy set for season". Montreal Gazette. p. 26.
  9. ^ "Killy eager for pro ski comeback". Montreal Gazette. Associated Press. 26 November 1974. p. 9.
  10. ^ "Killy, Sabich, Nindl, and many others to compete in Mt. Snow Pro Classic". Schenectady (NY) Gazette. 31 January 1975. p. 23.
  11. ^ a b Gillen, Bob (February 1983). "Feisty With Flair". Ski.
  12. ^ "Killy to head Shawnee ski operations". The Pocono Record. Allentown, Pennsylvania. 29 November 1975. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Where To Ski in Your Region". Ski. January 1976.
  14. ^ "Jean-Claude Killy resigns as IOC member after overseeing successful Sochi Olympic Winter Games". International Olympic Committee. 28 March 2014.
  15. ^ "127th IOC Session comes to close in Monaco". International Olympic Committee. 9 December 2014.
  16. ^ "Jean-Claude Killy:1983 New York City Marathon Results and Info". results.nyrr.org. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  17. ^ Le figaro magazine (in French). Le Figaro. December 1983. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  18. ^ Paris Match (in French). October 1983. Retrieved 14 February 2024.
  19. ^ Hodgetts, Rob (17 December 2015). "Vladimir Putin: Russian 'poorly treated,' says ski great Jean-Claude Killy". CNN. Retrieved 26 June 2018.

External links[edit]