Marc Girardelli (born July 18th, 1963 in Lustenau, Austria) was perhaps the most gifted all-rounder of the Alpine Ski modern era. He started skiing at the age of five, and started racing at seven. He stood out as a youngster, by winning the Topolino Trophy and the Ovo Grand Prix in 1975 and 1976. 1976 was a turning year for Girardelli. He was an Austrian citizen, who had attended a Ski School located in Schruns, near his birthplace of Lustenau. He dreamed that he would grow up and become a great ski racer for Austria and he never had any doubts that this would happen, but he wanted to be coach by his father Helmut rather than taking the advice of the Austrian coaches. After this disagreement with the Austrian Federation about the training methods Girardelli decided to make a historical switch. Since that year he would have race for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a small and mountain less nation with no tradition in the Winter Sports.
In the middle of 1997 season he announced his retirement from active skiing after 46 WC victories (4th place in the all-time winners list), 11 World medals (four golds), but surprisingly he failed to win a gold at the Olympic Games, with a second place in the super-G and GS at Albertville in 1992 as best results. His career lasted a 17-year span with at least 430 WC starts and he holds another particular record with almost 14 knee operations.
He became a racer but not a citizen of Luxembourg. He could compete in the FIS International races but the former Austrian would have to wait for several years before receiving a passport. He enjoyed a FIS field for the first time in 1978 and after skiing very well in the FIS races and Europa Cup races made his World Cup debut in 1980 and rose up in the FIS rankings after his first season, entering the second group in Slalom and GS.
In 1981 he started to make significant progress with his first podium in the WC Slalom event held in Wengen, Switzerland, where the 17-year-old finished in second place behind Jugoslavia's Bojan Krizaj and ahead of the legendary Ingemar Stenmark. The following season the naturalized Girardelli collected another four Top 3's positions. In the meantime he began to improve his speed skills with his own personal techniques. He wasn't 'crazy' like the majority of the downhillers. His father simply applied the laws of physics to ski racing and Giradelli tried and tried to put into practice all the novel ideas of Mr. Helmut.
In the 1981-1983 period he opened an injury streak with some shoulder dislocations plus a terrific knee injury that forced him to undergo a delicate and long operation by Dr. Richard Steadman. The famous American orthopaedic said he had never seen such a damaged knee. A normal man would have struggled to walk normally while Girardelli, thanks to a strength of will beyond pain, returned to racing.
On February 27th, 1983 Girardelli entered the WC winners book, by triumphing in the Slalom competition on the Swedish soil of Gaellivare, claiming the first of his 46 WC victories, but at the end of the season he suffered another major injury and despite a 15% disability in his left knee, the man from Luxembourg was able to compete again by stabilizing the knee thanks to hard training.
In 1984 the new world-class skier dominated the Slalom standings, sealing five wins and the discipline crystal globe, placing third in the overall standings, throwing in the towel for the first spot in the WC overall title. Despite the severe knee injury suffered at Lake Louise the previous year, where he fell badly tearing the ligaments, a tendon and cartilage of his left knee, Girardelli returned immediately to the top of his game and was simply outstanding in the '84-'85 season. He stole the limelight with 11 wins and was crowned World Cup champion at the age of 21, beating his fierce rival Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland by only 18 points.
In the mid-80's Alpine Ski racing was a nonstop duel between Girardelli and Zurbriggen. In 1986 Girardelli managed to retain the title despite various accidents and with only three wins but the injuries didn't go away. In 1987 Girardelli finally gained the Luxembourgian citizenship but surrendered the title to Zurbriggen, who came out also victorious in 1988.
He claimed his first World Championship gold medal in 1987 at Crans Montana, snatching the win in the Combined event but missed out the podium in his first Olympic appearance at Calgary '88, finishing only 9th in the DH after having missed out the two previous editions at Lake Placid and Sarajevo because he wasn't eligible to compete for his newly adopted country.
Game over for Girardelli? No way! Things went right in the 1988-1989 season, an unforgettable season. Girardelli neared the double digits mark, by winning nine times, but above all he won races in all the five specialities, the first racer to achieve this feat in a single season, a mark which stood until the American Bode Millar equalled the record in 2004. He claimed a back-to-back gold medal in the 1989 Worlds' at Vail, capturing the title in the Combined. He was the Combined maestro with 11 WC wins in this discipline.
His new career ventured to come to an end in 1990, when he suffered a horrific crash at Sestriere and narrowly avoided paraplegia. Girardelli lost nearly the entire WC season and after a long rehab period he completely recovered his shape and form to once again reclaim the overall World Cup.
In 1991 he beat all odds again, defeating the reigning Champion Alberto Tomba and was crowned Slalom World Champion at Saalbach-Hinterglemm. He won only three times in the '90-'91 season but ousted the Italian thanks to more podiums compared to the Italian ace.
The year after that was an under-par season for him, full of ups and downs. In 1993 Girardelli rewrote a page of the World Cup history books, by lifting his fifth large globe a record which has yet to be equalled. The fifth title was the most difficult. Not because he was aged 30, because he again ruptured the cruciate ligament of his knee eight races before the World Cup Final.
After that incredible fifth triumph Girardelli performed below his own personal high standards. In 1994 he clinched the downhill title while the following year he was simply exhausted but he did manage to save a little bit energy for the last hurrah. In January 1996 he won the last WC race, a Combined staged at Veysonnaz and a month later he claimed his fourth World gold medal again in the Combined at Sierra Nevada.
These days, after working as a consultant for the German and Bulgarian Federations he was involved in business, running off several commercial transactions and later became an helicopter pilot.