Karl Hilzinger : le « skieur au costume argenté » (Deuxième partie)

Karl Hilzinger & Chris Koch. © War Amps association

The “skier in the silver suit”: Karl Hilzinger (Part two)

When I got to the site of the accident, the scene appeared otherworldly. The police and Dr. Dupré were already there. Karl was stretched out on the ground: an electric cable lay across his right arm and chest and another had gone through his legs.

I was frozen in place, and saw only Karl and Dr. Dupré. Our gazes locked and, in his eyes, I read that nothing could be done. The ambulance personnel expected to head for Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, but Dr. Dupré said no. He asked them to take Karl to the emergency department in a Montreal hospital, where Karl came back to life after being declared clinically dead. Later on, it was Dr. Dupré himself who created the plaster casts used to make Karl’s artificial limbs.

Against all expectations, Karl survived his injuries. His right arm and his ribcage were severely burned and his legs had to be amputated above the knee. He underwent multiple surgical procedures and numerous skin grafts. His friends from football and skiing had themselves tested for an eventual skin donation. My own test showed that I was not compatible.

Karl’s accident made me realize that even though we think we’re invincible, we’re not. It also made me ask myself quite often whether we would have had the courage and determination he showed in overcoming such harrowing ordeals.

I won’t go into detail on Karl’s long rehabilitation, which was a very painful period. The most important thing to emphasize is what he achieved after the accident. The daring athlete now felt he had a new mission.

Karl was determined to find new ways to practise the sports he loved. It was he who came up with the prostheses and fine-tuned the techniques that allowed him to pursue his passions. He became a sports pioneer for persons with handicaps. He could be seen skimming down the slopes and also playing golf with his trademark humour and sunny disposition.

In 1976, he joined The War Amps association as a sports consultant. Inspired by their motto, “It’s what remains that counts”, and their philosophy, “Amputees helping amputees”, he created the program called The Winners. He transmitted his love of sport to all the Winners across Canada through seminars and workshops and by giving courses in skiing and golf.

His commitment and inspiration are immortalized in the film “Par-delà les pentes” (Beyond the slopes). The 24-minute film, shot at Mont Tremblant, highlights his positive influence over young persons with handicaps whom he introduced to skiing. A star in the War Amps commercials, Karl remained, for several generations, “the skier in the silver suit”.

Karl Hilzinger died on December 15, 1988. Although he never participated in the Paralympic Games, from my perspective his inspiring actions with respect to persons with handicaps is well worth a gold medal.

Bravo, champ, for the enormous courage you demonstrated. You inspired us all.


More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Peter Duncan


Peter Duncan83 Posts

Membre de l’équipe canadienne de ski alpin de 1960 à 1971, skieur professionnel de 1971 à 1979 et champion américain en 1965, Peter Duncan a participé aux Jeux olympiques de 1964 à Innsbruck ainsi qu’à ceux de 1968 à Grenoble. Intronisé au Temple de la renommée du ski au Canada, au Panthéon des sports du Québec et récipiendaire de la médaille du gouverneur général, Peter a longtemps été commentateur de ski à la télévision./ Peter Duncan is a Canadian former alpine skier who competed in the 1964 and the 1968 Winter Olympics. He was named to the Canadian National Alpine Team in 1960 at the age of 16 and competed at the national level for the next 10-years until 1970 before retiring.


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