Local knowledge helps Bibbia win skeleton

Italy’s Nino Bibbia first arrived in St Moritz at the age of three, when his father came to the area to sell fruit, and was to develop a long love affair with the place. 

He watched the 1928 Games in the town and found them thrilling, inspiring a lifelong love for winter sports. As a natural on the ice, he became a familiar sight on the St Moritz sporting scene after settling in the town. Bibbia tried his hand at bobsleigh,  luge, skeleton and ice hockey, as well as skiing and ski jumping. Like other winter sport athletes of the era, he was an allrounder who blossomed just as the Second World War was coming to an end.

By then, he had decided to focus on the sliding sports and, of course, his knowledge of the conditions in St Moritz were a great help when it came to proving his value to the Italian Olympic team. Bibbia was chosen for the two-man bobsleigh, the four-man bob and also, shortly before the Games began, he was picked for the skeleton.

He started with the two-man bob, where he and Edilberto Campadese finished in eighth place, 3.3secs off the podium. But that was merely a warm-up for his best event.

The skeleton was a long and tough event at these Games, with six runs down the famous Cresta Run course. Among the favourites were Christian Fischbacher, of Switzerland, Britain's John Crammond and the American Jack Heaton, who had won a silver medal two decades earlier as a teenager, and was now aged 39.

Few knew much about Bibbia until he began performing well on the first day. Crammond won the first run, which also saw Fischbacher crash out. Heaton won the second run, but Bibbia was sitting third and he laid down his title ability in the day's third and final run, in which the Italian went quickest, to move up to joint-second overnight.

The second day of competition, though, belonged to Bibbia. He was either quickest, or joint quickest, on each run to  end up nearly a second and a half ahead of Heaton, with Crammond taking bronze.

It was to be the first of Bibbia's incredible record of 231 wins on the Cresta track, a momentous achievement by the Italian. In his honour one of the curves at the 2006 Turin Games named after him.

His Games finished with a sixth place finish in the four-man bobsleigh, and he was never to compete again on the Olympic stage.