Throwback: Eugenio Monti’s act of sportsmanship helps competitors win gold

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February 1st, 1964

It was the bolt that changed Olympic history.

Italian bobsleigh driver Eugenio Monti and his brakeman Siorpaes went into the 1964 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria as the favorites in the two-man event. Yet after two runs on the first day on the artificial track in Igls, Britain’s Tony Nash and Robin Dixon led the field. The pair dropped into second place after the first run on the second day as the rear axel bolt on their sled sheared off, leaving them with no spare.

The Brits would have had to forgo their final run of the day (and their chance at Olympic gold) if it weren’t for a moment of extraordinary sportsmanship from their competitor. The 36-year-old Monti stepped forward to give them the bolt from his sled. The British pair went on to record the fastest time in the fourth and final run and won gold by just 0.12 seconds, as Italians Sergio Zardini and Romaro Bonagura took silver with Monti and Siorpaes claiming the bronze.

“Nash didn’t win the gold because I gave him that bolt,” Monti said afterwards. “But because he was the fastest.”

Four days later in the four-man event, Monti’s selflessness towards his fellow competitors shined through again when the rear axel on the Canadian team’s sled was damaged during a run. Monti and his Italian team’s mechanics helped repair it, even though their handiwork led to the Canadian team winning gold, with Monti and the Italians settling for another bronze.

Monti’s efforts did land him another medal days later when he became the first recipient of the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for Olympic Sportsmanship.

By the time he retired, Monti was widely regarded as the finest bobsleigh driver of the 1950s and 1960s, winning nine World Championships and two Olympic golds (both coming four years later at the 1968 Games in Grenoble).

Yet his actions at the 1964 Games are an even bigger part of his legacy to this day.

“[The de Coubertin Medal] was more than deserved,” Nash recalled. “He was a wonderful man and a great friend.”

 

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