Henri Oreiller



The Acrobat


A member of the French underground during World War II, Henri Oreiller was known as "The Acrobat" because he was able to negotiate the slopes of Val d'Isère on one ski. When the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Games began, Oreiller was full of confidence.

Although there were 112 skiers entered in the downhill event, he boasted that the others were wasting their time because he would win easily. But when he awoke on the morning of the competition, he faced an unexpected setback: he could not find his famous red skis. Finally they were discovered on the roof of the car of an American who had taken them by mistake. Oreiller careened down the piste wildly, but always regained his balance and, in the end, just as he had predicted, he won by a huge margin, completing the course four seconds faster than any of the other competitors. Two days later, Oreiller took part in the combined event.

He skied the downhill portion five seconds faster than the other competitors and then recorded the fifth fastest time on the slalom course to earn his second gold medal. The following day, he won a bronze medal in the slalom event, moving up from fourth to third with his second run. Oreiller later turned to race car driving and was killed at the wheel of his Ferrari at the age of 36.