Past Olympic Athletes >> Nino Bibbia
- Date of birth
Olympic Games (1 medal - 1 gold)
- 1st (1948)
World Championships (3 medals - 3 gold)
- 1st (1955, 1959, 1965)
Italy's first ever winter champion
Nino Bibbia was the first Italian to win an Olympic Winter Games gold medal and would have undoubtedly won a hatful more had his sport, the skeleton, not been sidelined by the Olympic movement after the 1948 competition in St Moritz.
Bibbia, born in Valtellina near the Italian-Swiss border in 1924 was a talented and versatile athlete who at some stage tried his hand at a whole range of sports, including the bobsleigh, the luge, ski jumping and ice hockey, not to mention cycling and athletics.
After World War II Bibbia settled in St Moritz and it was then that his love affair with skeleton racing began.
In just three years he was good enough at the sport to win a place in the Italian team for the 1948 St Moritz Games where the favourites were undoubtedly the Swiss Christian Fischbacher and the American John Heaton.
Bibbia, however, had the advantage of knowing the famous Cresta Run like the back of his hand and in the end the Italian comfortably squeezed Heaton into second place, while Fischbacher's challenge disappeared after he failed to complete his four runs.
Turin 2006 pay tribute to Bibbia
His gold medal was all the more welcome because Italy was still reeling from the exclusion from their cross-country skiing team of the Compagnoni brothers, Aristide and Ottavio.
Bibbia's extraordinary career was amazing by any standards, and he can hardly be blamed for the lack of Olympic titles.
During a thirty-year reign he won 210 races on the trot and even when he was finally beaten in 1975 it was by his son, Gianni.
Bibbia, now in his 80s, still lives in St Moritz, a town which has adopted him as one of its favourite sons.
In tribute to his achievements, the Italian authorities named a bend on the Olympic track used at the Turin Games in 2006 in his honour.
Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.