Jean-Claude Killy

ULLSTEIN BILD/ROGER-VIOLLET

DOWNHILL DEMON: Killy tears through the slalom course at Wengen, Switzerland in 1967; the next year he went on to win three gold medals at the Grenoble Winter Olympics

By the time French skier Jean-Claude Killy arrived at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, he had already won consecutive World Cups in the previous two years and was in peak form. But, as he headed to the starting gate of the Olympic downhill, the 24-year-old Frenchman realized his competition skis were stripped of wax.

On a training run earlier, he'd grabbed the wrong pair. "I offered to hurry and wax them," recalls then French team trainer René Sulpice, 73, "but he just waved it off and said, 'We'll manage.'" That's when Killy's steely drive to...

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