Leonardo David

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Leonardo David
— Alpine skier —
Disciplines Slalom, Giant Slalom, Downhill
Born (1960-09-27)27 September 1960
Aosta Valley, Italy
Died 26 February 1985(1985-02-26) (aged 24)
Aosta Valley, Italy
World Cup debut 1978
Teams 0
World Championships
Teams 0
World Cup
Seasons 1 – (1979)
Wins 1 – (1 SL)
Podiums 4 – (1 GS, 3 SL)
Overall titles 0 – (11th in 1979)
Discipline titles 0 – (8th in SL, 1979)

Leonardo David (27 September 1960[1] – 26 February 1985) was a World Cup alpine ski racer from northwestern Italy.


Born in Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Aosta Valley, he died of heart failure in Gressoney-La-Trinité after nearly six years in a coma, caused by injuries he sustained in a fall near Lake Placid, New York, on 3 March 1979.[2][3][4]

David fell a few yards before the finish of the pre-Olympic downhill at Whiteface Mountain. He slid mostly on his back and his skis remained on. After coming to a stop, David arose and skied over to his coach, bent down to remove his skis, and collapsed. He was airlifted by military helicopter to Burlington, Vermont,[5] where surgeons removed a blood clot in his brain.[2]

He had fallen two weeks earlier, in the downhill race of the Italian national championships at Cortina d'Ampezzo, and a friend reported David had complained of ongoing headaches since.[6] He had been examined by a neurosurgeon,[7] but was allowed to join the Italian team for the conclusion of the World Cup season in North America and Japan.[8]

Then age 18, David was a promising talent on the Italian team, in his first year on the World Cup circuit. He won the overall and slalom titles of the European Cup in 1978, and placed second in giant slalom. He won his only World Cup race, a slalom in Oslo, less than a month before his accident, outpacing Ingemar Stenmark and Phil Mahre.[9][10] David had 10 top ten finishes with four podiums during the 1979 World Cup season, and finished in 11th place in the overall standings with 85 points.

After nearly three months in a coma in Burlington,[5] David was flown to Italy on a special U.S. military transport in late May, and hospitalized in Novara.[11] In late July, David was flown to Innsbruck, Austria,[12][13] for intensified treatment and was thought to be emerging from the coma in September.[14] More than three years later, he was taken to Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in the Soviet Union for a last-ditch effort to revive him in December 1982.[15] He died at home in February 1985 of an apparent heart attack.[4] In 1990, three physicians were indicted on manslaughter charges in Italy on the grounds that David should not have been allowed to compete after his fall at Cortina d'Ampezzo.[7]

David's parents run a small ski shop at Gressoney and it is kept as a small museum in memory of their beloved son. Visitors can see his skis, Italian ski team posters on the shop roof showing him, Piero Gros, and Gustav Thöni among others, all his trophies on a shelf and lots of pictures. At the front wall of the church in Gressoney is a memorial plaque to David, and a racing piste is named for him on Gressoney Saint Jean.[16]

World Cup results[edit]

Season standings[edit]

Season Age Overall Slalom Giant
Super G Downhill Combined
1979 18 11 8 15 not run

Race podiums[edit]

  • 1 win (1 SL)
  • 4 podiums (1 GS, 3 SL), 10 top tens (5 GS, 5 SL)
Season Date Location Discipline Place
1979 9 Dec 1978 Austria Schladming, Austria Giant Slalom 3rd
21 Dec 1978 Slovenia Kranjska Gora, Slovenia Slalom 3rd
5 Feb 1979 Czechoslovakia Jasná, Czechoslovakia Slalom 2nd
7 Feb 1979 Norway Oslo, Norway Slalom 1st



  1. ^ Leonardo David at the International Ski Federation
  2. ^ a b "Austrian skier wins; Italian racer injured". Lawrence Journal-World. Associated Press. March 4, 1979. p. 5B.
  3. ^ "Italian skier hurt in '79 fall dies after 5 years in coma". New York Times. UPI. February 28, 1985. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Skier dies six years after crash". Montreal Gazette. Associated Press. Feb 28, 1985. p. E-5.
  5. ^ a b "Italian skier still in coma". St Petersburg Times. March 31, 1979. p. 9C.
  6. ^ "Skier injured at Lake Placid". Milwaukee Journal. AP and UPI. March 4, 1979. p. 10.
  7. ^ a b "3 doctors indicted". Wilmington (NC) Morning Star. August 29, 1990. p. 2B.
  8. ^ "Panel to probe Italian skier's death". Bend (OR) Bulletin. UPI. November 24, 1985. p. E-7.
  9. ^ "Italy's David slalom winner". Ottawa Citizen. UPI. February 8, 1979. p. 24.
  10. ^ "Italian youth captures slalom". Bangor (ME) Daily News. UPI. p. 20.
  11. ^ "Italian skier, still in coma, now home". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. May 24, 1979. p. 43.
  12. ^ "Skier moved". Ellensburg Daily Record. UPI. July 26, 1979. p. 9.
  13. ^ "Injured skier moved". Wilmington (NC) Morning Star. August 1, 1979. p. 4C.
  14. ^ "Skier coming out of coma". Montreal Gazette. Reuters. September 22, 1979. p. 10.
  15. ^ "Skier still in coma". Montreal Gazette. AFP. December 16, 1982. p. D12.
  16. ^ "…dal 1959 : la storia di David Sport". David Spaort. Retrieved 4 August 2017.

External links[edit]