Born in Saint-Cloud, France, on August 30th, 1943, with a father from Alsace who was a fighter pilot in the French military during the Second World War, Jean-Claude Killy was not predestined to become a world class skier. In 1946, when he was barely 3, he moved to Val d’Isère with his family and stepped onto a pair of skis for the first time. As an avid athlete, he played a number of different sports, before finally focusing on skiing. At 16 the French ski federation noticed his potential, first placing him on the development team before Honoré Bonnet selected him to join the French national ski team.
“I’m around 8 years old, on Val d’Isère’s ski jump. As a kid, my friends and I didn’t like school, and we always wanted to head out to the ski jump as soon as we could.” Jean-Claude Killy
On December 16, 1961, Killy’s star lights up the ski world for the first time. Only 18 years old, during a giant slalom race, the young champion adds the first medal to what will be a long and prestigious list of achievements in international competitions. The 1965 and 1966 seasons were exceptional, punctuated by 2 World Championship titles in Portillo. 1967 marked the year of total supremacy, the person later to be named “King” Killy won the overall title for the 1st edition of the World Cup, with 12 victories in 15 races. He also won the individual downhill, giant slalom and slalom titles. 1968 was an Olympic year – the Holy Grail of competition. Killy took all and entered the history books by winning three gold medals in the three alpine skiing disciplines, going home with an incredible three Olympic titles. His brilliant career is recognized at the highest level, and in 1968 he is awarded the Legion of Honor by General de Gaulle.
Grenoble Winter Olympics – February 9, 1968 – At the start of the main event of the Games, the downhill: “I needed to train for 2 or 3 years to master the kick start. I began to understand the importance of a strong start in Val d’Isère, long before the Olympics in Grenoble. I finally realized that I needed to push off just as hard with my legs as with my arms all the while hitting the starting wand at just the right moment to start the clock.”
During the evening after winning his third medal, at the high point of his career, he decided to stop competing, and thus ended the first major chapter of his life. His fame was real and transformed into worldwide stardom. He met with his mentor, Mark McCormack and became one of the first athletes to sell his image to promote some of the biggest brands on the world stage. From 1968 to 1981 he was also a race car driver, racing in the 24 hours of Le Mans, a movie actor, and head of his own brand of skiwear.
In 1981, together with Michel Barnier, he took on the challenge of organizing the Winter Olympics in Albertville. This formidable goal brought him back to his athletic roots, and added another dimension to his champion and business persona. Following the success of the 1992 Winter Olympics, which revealed his extraordinary ability to organize an event and to manage people, Jean-Claude Killy ran ASO for 9 years, a company that organizes events such as the Tour de France and Paris Dakar. He was also invited to become a board member of such prestigious multi-national companies as Coca-Cola and Rolex. Since 1995, Jean-Claude Killy has been one of the 115 members of the International Olympic Committee. Within the IOC, he chaired the committee that coordinated the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, and the committee and the committee that coordinated the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Copenhagen – September 28, 2009
Jean-Claude Killy speaking in front of IOC members during the Olympic Congress.