The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Nancy Greene

Downhill Skiing

1968


Skier Nancy Greene at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble

Skier Nancy Greene at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble

Date
1968
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

There’s Gold in Those Hills…

Chamrousse, France, 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics.

Nancy Greene felt great and posted good training times but the team made a waxing mistake. She finished 10th in the Downhill event. She called it the most disappointing day of her life.

Slalom, the next event, is the only ski event that counts two runs. Fall on one and you’re out. The 57-gate course was very icy and treacherous. Nancy knew there would be many spills and exercised some caution in a respectable first run but was behind France’s Marielle Goitschel. With Marielle in the lead, Nancy threw caution to the wind and attacked the second run, posting the fastest time. Nancy’s combined time was 29/100ths of a second shy of a gold medal. Her gamble on a conservative first run had likely cost her the race. Nancy had performed well but in her mind only first place counts. She settled for silver.

There was only one race left to fulfill a dream that began eight years earlier at her first Olympics in 1960. Sixteen year old Nancy had bunked with Anne Heggtveit and watched her win Canada’s first gold medal in alpine skiing in the Giant Slalom at Squaw Valley. That day she told herself she would win a gold medal before she quit skiing. She dismissed her father’s suggestion of retirement after a disappointing 1964 Olympics convinced she would still improve. Nancy pointed out a big mental difference going into 1968.

“In 1964, I thought I could win a medal. I hoped for a medal. In 1968, I knew I could get a medal. There was no doubt in my mind”. Just like Anne it came down to the Giant Slalom. Nancy vowed, “I will win gold or fall in the attempt!” (Nancy Greene, personal communication, 10 September 2008).

She studied the course and it suited her perfectly. It was a very long and technical course with a steep icy pitch at the bottom. She had developed such an efficient style she knew she would have the legs and conditioning to handle that section. She came out of the start gate on her line and stayed on it. She got faster and faster in the 68 gate course. At the finish line she knew she had nailed it...then a moment of panic. The timing board went blank. Then slowly the lights lit up and registered her start number – 0 9 then – CAN – Greene – at the top. The Gold was hers.

Nancy Greene’s winning streak continued after the Olympics and she claimed her second consecutive World Cup title. At the end of the 1968 season, Canada’s most decorated alpine skier retired at the very top of her sport.

Nancy again Marsh winner Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1959-1968
Member, National Ski Team, 17 Canadian Championship Ski Titles, 3 US Ski Championship Titles
1967
World Cup title
1967
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1968
Grenoble Olympic Games - gold medal in giant slalom and silver medal in slalom event
1968
World Cup title
1968
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1999
Named Canada’s Female Athlete of the Century by Canadian Press