“Superman on Skis” Jean-Claude Killy Part 2: Karl Schranz and the Mystery Man Who Nearly Ended Killy’s Golden Trifecta

Jean-Claude Killy, Guy Perillat
Jean-Claude Killy, Guy Perillat 1 and 2 in the downhill at Grenoble

Jean-Claude Killy edged out his fellow Frenchman, Guy Perillat, by only 8 one hundreth of a second in the men’s downhill. In the second alpine event, the giant slalom, King Killy, as he had been called, won easily for his second gold event.

The big question remaining – could Killy match the accomplishments of the great Austrian, Toni Sailer, who won all three alpine events at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Olympics. The answer was touch and go.

A few days after Killy won the giant slalom, the weather in the French Alps deteriorated. Visibility on the slopes was horrible due to shadows, fog and mist, which made it hard to see the gates that formed the route down the mountain. The visibility was so poor, some of the skiers pleaded with officials to postpone the slalom competition, to no avail.

There are two rounds of skiing in the slalom and Killy found favor with the Gods as the skies cleared during his first run, helping him secure a small lead with a time of 49.37 seconds. In the second round, Killy made it down the course without fault, with a slighly slower time of 50.36 seconds.

A threat to Killy’s gold medal trifecta, Norwegian, Hakon Mjoen, seemingly overtook Killy in his second run, only to be disqualified for missing two gates down the slope. There was only one more man who had a chance to beat Killy – the Austrian Karl Schranz. Silver medalist in the giant slalom at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, and World Cup Champion in 1969 and 1970, Schranz unfortunately found greater fame in this 1968 slalom event.Karl Schranz

Sailer Schranz and Killy
Austrian skier Karl Schranz being congratulated by teammate Toni Sailer (left) and Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy after winning the Olympic slalom event here. Later came the sensational disqualification of Schranz by the judges for missing a gate.

As Schranz made his way down the slalom course, at the 21st gate, he had to stop, according to sports-reference.com. Schranz told officials that a man in black walked onto the course in his path, forcing him to stop. Upon hearing that explanation, officials allowed Schranz a do-over. Taking advantage, Shranz skied the course to perfection, generating the fastest combined times of the two rounds, and entered the post-race press conference as the proud winner of his first Olympic gold medal. Killy was the reluctant winner of the silver medal.

Two hours later, Schranz’s world was turned topsy turvy. It was announced that Schranz had missed gate #19 in the second round, two gates earlier than when the mystery man in black impeded Schranz’s progress. Since the infraction occurred prior to the distraction, officials declared Shranz disqualified, and Jean-Claude Killy the gold medalist.

Schranz and the Austrian team, according to The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics 2014 Edition, were outraged.

Schranz claimed that if he did miss a gate or two it was because he had already been distracted by the sight of someone on the course. His supporters contended that the mystery man had been a French policeman or soldier who had purposely interfered with Schranz in order to insure Killy’s victory. The French, on the other hand, hinted that Schranz had made up the whole story after he had missed a gate.

In the end, a Jury of Appeal ruled against Schranz. The Austrian lost his gold, and Killy won his third gold of the Grenoble Winter Games, matching Sailer in 1956. As he was quoted in The Complete Book, Killy celebrated with the sustained intensity he brought to the slopes: “The party went on for two-and-a-half days, and the whole time I never saw the sun once.”