One of the greatest alpine skiers of all-time is Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy. I was reminded of this fact during the coverage of this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
He dominated the sport in the late 1960’s, which included a clean sweep of the 1968 Olympic alpine events in Grenoble winning three golds, in the downhill, giant slalom and slalom. He also won two World Cup titles and six World Championship gold medals. I grew up watching him compete and later was a big fan of his two television series including THE KILLY CHALLENGE.
In one episode he skied down the eastern slope of the previously unskied down the side of Mt Ngauruhoe a volcano in my home country New Zealand. For LORD OF THE RINGS fans it’s the mountain used by Peter Jackson to represent Mt Doom in the screen adaption of the Tolkien trilogy. On the 35 degree slope he reached speeds in excess of 100 mph.
Jean-Claude won his first International event at the age of 18 and was included in the French team the 1962 World Championships. Unaware of his selection, he was still trying to qualify at an event in the north of Italy. On his final run, in typical reckless style he hit an ice sheet, before the finishing line, which propelled him into the air, landing on one ski, but crossing the line with the fastest time and the other leg broken. He watched the World Championships on crutches.
During this year’s Games, his name repeatedly came up in the TV commentary, so I suddenly thought I must get him to sign a drawing and quickly sent him this sketch at his home base in Geneva. He returned it within a week signed and dedicated.