A true prodigy, Alain Calmat first started competing at 9-years-old, and appeared at the 1954 World Championships when he was only 13. A three-time Olympian, he improved each time, placing ninth in 1956, sixth in 1960, and winning a silver medal in 1964 behind Manfred Schnelldorfer. Calmat competed as an amateur for one more year after the Innsbruck Olympics, winning the 1965 World Championships, after having been runner-up in 1963-64 and third in 1960 and 1962. Calmat was European Champion for three straight years, 1962-64, also winning silvers in 1961 and 1965, and a bronze in 1958. He was a five-time French champion, winning the title in 1958 and 1962-65. Although he did not compete at the 1968 Winter Olympics, he was chosen to light the Olympic Flame as the final torch bearer during the Opening Ceremony.
Calmat later studied medicine and became a surgeon, serving as chief of abdominal surgery at Montfermeil, but he is best known in later life for his political career. Calmat was a socialist who became minister of Youth Affairs and Sports from 1984-86. He was elected deputy of the Cher Department from 1986-93, and in 1995 became mayor of Livry-Gargan, while in 1997 he was elected as a deputy of the French National Assembly, serving through 2002. He was then re-elected as mayor of Livry-Gargan, serving from 2001-08.
Calmat has received numerous awards for his sports, medical, and political careers. In 1967 he was made a chevalier of the légion d’honneur, becoming an officer of the légion d’honneur in 1984. In 1976 he was given the gold medal for Youth and Sports, and that same year was made a commander in the National Order of Merit. He was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.