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Against all odds

Jun 12, 2024·FIS 100
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What sets the greats apart from the rest? Delivering the best performance at the right time - just like Marc Girardelli did on 1 February 1987 at the World Ski Championships in Crans Montana. After two triumphs in the overall World Cup, this winter he had no chance against his great rival, the Swiss Pirmin Zurbriggen. "The only chance to save the season was a medal at the World Championships," Girardelli recalled. And on that day, he gave it his all in the combined downhill, setting the fastest time and winning the gold medal - ahead of his rival. Inspired by his success, he also secured silver in the super-G and giant slalom.

Girardelli achieved all of this – including his five triumphs in the overall World Cup – for Luxembourg. The feat was all the more impressive considering he did it with a mini-team consisting of just his father Helmut, a service man and himself.

The Austrian-born skier, whose talent became apparent early on, quickly broke away from the Austrian Ski Federation. "My father avoided federations where there were too many officials who could interfere without control", recalled Girardelli in an interview to mark his 60th birthday on 18 July 2023.

Despite this unorthodox approach, he won in all five disciplines. In the 1988/1989 season, he even achieved this within a single season - the first racer in history to do so. Overall, Girardelli won 46 World Cup races, the World Cup title five times and the World Championships four times. Looking back on his career, Girardelli described one of his "greatest successes” as “defeating the big teams as an individual racer” – and few could argue with that.