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King Ochoa, the first - and only

Jun 12, 2024·FIS 100
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Back in the days when slalom runs still looked like a dance between the gates (long before racers pushed away the slalom poles) Francisco Fernandez Ochoa catapulted out of the starting gate at the Sapporo Winter Olympics on 13 February 1972. After setting the fastest time in the first run, the then 21-year-old Spaniard – wearing striking red and yellow ski trousers and a white cap instead of a helmet – finished ahead of the Italian Gustav Thöni in the second. As supporters rushed up to hug Ochia, he dropped down with an incredulous look on his face. Winning bib number 2 was a surprise, marking the first victory for a Spaniard at the Winter Olympics - and the only one to date.

The medal ceremony almost took place without "Paquito", as Ochoa was called. He had forgotten his credentials and the security staff refused to let him into the stadium, even though he had told them that he was an Olympic champion. "And they were right," Ochoa recalled. "Imagine that: An Olympic skiing champion from Spain! That would be like a Japanese king of a bullfighting arena." In the end, however, Ochoa was allowed into the stadium to receive his medal.

Ochoa remained a highly respected sports personality, helping to organise the 1996 World Ski Championships in the Sierra Nevada and even giving skiing lessons to King Juan Carlos. In 2006, he was honoured with a monument in his birthplace of Cercedilla. Just nine days later, on 6 November 2006, "Paquito" died of lymphatic cancer at the age of 56.