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Zeno Colò

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 1
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
SexMale
Full nameZeno•Colò
Used nameZeno•Colò
Born30 June 1920 in Abetone, Pistoia (ITA)
Died12 May 1993 in San Marcello Pistoiese, Pistoia (ITA)
AffiliationsSci Club Abetone, Abetone (ITA)
NOC Italy

Biography

Zeno Colò was one of the strongest Italian skiers of all-time, as a world record holder in the flying kilometer and world and Olympic champion in the 1950s . Because of World War II, Colò had a short racing career internationally after he started competing at age 14 and joined the national team one year later. During the war he was a member of the Cervinia ski patrol, and was imprisoned. He took up racing again in 1947 at age 27. That year he set a new world record for the flying kilometer with around 160 km/hr on the Klein Matterhorn mountain in Cervinia, beating the previous record of 136 km/h by Leo Gasperl that had stood for 16 years, and Colò’s record remained unbeaten for 17 years. His “high egg position” was the precursor to the egg position still used by racers to reduce drag. However, unlike his successors, Colò used wooden skis and did not wear a helmet.

Colò competed at the 1948 Winter Olympics and won the Lauberhorn downhill that year, while in 1949 he won the downhill and the combined at the Arlberg-Kandahar and the slalom at the Lauberhorn race, repeating that result in 1950. Also in 1950 he was the star of the World Championships in Aspen, Colorado, finishing first in downhill and giant slalom and second in slalom, only 3/10ths of a second behind Swiss Georges Schneider. While in North America, he won the North American Championships. At the 1952 Winter Olympics, Colò failed to defend his world title in giant slalom but won gold in the downhill, Italy’s first Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing.

After the Olympics in Oslo, Colò linked his name to models of ski sportswear. According to the regulations of the time he was therefore considered a professional. In 1954 he was disqualified by the Italian Winter Sports Federation (FISI) and was now allowed to participate in subsequent races. He tried in vain to have the disqualification overturned, which had sparked a controversy among the public, but it ended his racing career. Colò won 28 medals at Italian Championships: 9 downhill, 4 in the giant slalom, 10 in the slalom and 5 in combined, winning 19 Italian titles.

After his racing career, Colò became a ski instructor in his native Abetone, and worked with the development of the Pistoia ski resort and promoted the Abetone Ski Company. He constructed the first gondola and in 1973 he designed three ski slopes that descend from the Gomito mountain, named Zeno 1, 2, and 3. In 1989, FISI revoked the ban imposed on him in 1954. In 1991 he received the “A life for Skiing” award by the Abetone Ski Club and a gold medal from FISI. A heavy smoker for many years, he died in 1993 from lung cancer. The asteroid 58709 Zenocolò was named in his honor.

Results

Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1948 Winter Olympics Alpine Skiing (Skiing) ITA Zeno Colò
Downhill, Men (Olympic) AC
Slalom, Men (Olympic) 14
1952 Winter Olympics Alpine Skiing (Skiing) ITA Zeno Colò
Downhill, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
Giant Slalom, Men (Olympic) 4
Slalom, Men (Olympic) 4

Special Notes