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French Olympic ski champion Jean Vuarnet dies, aged 83

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Jean Vuarnet in February 1960 Staff/AFP

French skier Jean Vuarnet, an Olympic champion and entrepreneur, has died after a stroke at the age of 83, his family announced on Monday.


Born on 18 January, 1933, in Tunis, Vuarnet won downhill bronze in the 1958 world championships.

Jean Vuarnet, a life in dates
  • 18 January 1933: Born in Bardo, Tunisia;
  • 1934: Family moves to Morzine in the French Alps;
  • 1957: French slalom and giant slalom ski champion;
  • 1958: Marries three-time French women’s ski champion Edith Bonlieu, French downhill ski and slalom champion;
  • 1959: French downhill ski champion;
  • 1960: Wins Olympic gold medal, becomes world ski champion;
  • 1961-1972: Vice-president of French skiing federation;
  • 1964: Birth of son Alain;
  • 1966: Sets up Avoriaz ski resort, president of tourism office;
  • 1967: Birth of son Patrick;
  • 1994: Edith and Patrick die in the collective suicide of the Order of the Solar Temple cult;
  • 2 January 2017: Dies of a stroke in Sallonches, Savoie, aged 83.

He then went on to win gold in the downhill event in the 1960 Winter Olympics in California becoming the first Olympic champion on metal skis.

Vuarnet was also credited with developing the "egg" position racers adopt for a better aerodynamic profile.

At the 1960 games, he wore a new type of anti-glare sunglasses provided for the French team and later hacked a deal allowing the manufacturer to use his name.

He went on to help develop the Avoriaz ski resort, opened in 1964 as part of the famed Portes du Soleil ski area that links 12 French and Swiss resorts.

Later he became a coach to the Italian team and vice-president of the French federation.

But Vuarnet's life took a turn for the worse when his wife Edith and youngest son Patrick were among 16 members of the Order of the Solar Temple cult who committed suicide in 1995.