Take a trip back through 60 years of Universiade history. The first edition of the Winter Universiade took place at the legendary ski resort of Chamonix beside Mont Blanc. Fitting for a world event, the area resides in a confluence of France, Italy and Switzerland in the highest, and most storied, Alps mountains.
The FISU motto “Today’s Stars, Tomorrow’s Leaders” wasn’t coined until the 21st Century but it was as true in Chamonix during the first Winter Universiade as it is today.
It should come as no surprise that many athletes who participated in the Universiade over the years have gone on to do some enviable things with their lives, both in sport and out. These are, after all, university students we are talking about.
The trend can be traced back to the first edition of the Winter Universiade in Chamonix, France. It was here that young Frenchman Alain Calmat won gold in men’s figure skating, a feat that cemented his place in the upper echelon of skaters in the 1960s. He went on to become a World Champion, three-time Olympian (winning silver at Innsbruck 1964) and European Champion for three straight years (1962-64). His stature in France was such that he was invited to light the torch at the Olympic Winter Games Grenoble 1968 even though he did not compete in the Games.
For most people these accomplishments would provide a lifetime of fond memories. But Calmat was not one to rest on his laurels. Following his sports career, he became a surgeon, specializing in abdominal surgery. Years later he would switch careers again, this time for politics, where he quickly rose up the ranks. From 1984-86 he was Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports. He was also mayor of Livry-Gargan, a commune in the suburbs of Paris, and served as a Deputy in the French National Assembly until 2002.
Calmat’s compatriot Cécile Prince won the first ever Winter Universiade gold medal, taking the super giant slalom. This helped to propel France to the top of the medals table for the first and only time in Universiade history. France finished with 4 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze, ahead of second-place Soviet Union with 3 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze.
All told, 16 countries and 220 athletes took part in the first Winter Univiersiade, competing in six disciplines: ice hockey, ice skating, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined.