Born in Morgins, where the Swiss Alps meet those of France, Didier Defago was led along the path to a career in Alpine skiing by the breathtaking surroundings and his parents' passion for the sport which they successfully transmitted to their sons. Perhaps taking inspiration from his father's mechanical engineering career, Didier attempts to apply the same precision when tackling the speed events he excels at. Defago displayed great promise in his junior years culminating in astounding success at the 1996 Junior World Championships where he climbed the podium on three occasions: third in the Giant Slalom, second in the Combined and victory in the Super-G. He just missed out on another Top 3 finish when he was edged into fourth place in the Downhill race.
Such early success may have set an unrepeatable precedent as Didier has failed to attain the heights on the professional circuit his formative years hinted at. He made his debut in the World Cup in 1996 in the Super G at Kvitfjell and at the same Norwegian resort he achieved his first podium in the World Cup in March 2002 in the Super G, finishing second. He reached the top of the podium not long after when he raced to success in the Super G at Val Gardena on the Saslong course, leaving even himself speechless with surprise.
It wasn't until the 2008/09 season, at the age of 31, that he repeated the feat.
In between skiing, the modest, agreeable Swiss athlete continued his studies, completing a four-year apprenticeship to become a qualified architect. Meanwhile he was honing his technique on the slopes and began to post important results especially at a national level with the Swiss title in Downhill in 2003 and Giant Slalom in 2004.
On the big stage, however, he was struggling to break into the elite group, emphasized by his performance at the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City where his best result was sixth in the Super-G even if his skiing was full of passion, living the magical moment to the full.
His first consistent season came in 2005 when top 10 finishes became common place and his three podium places boosted his placement in the rankings to sixth in the overall and fourth in the Super G. At the Bormio World Championships which split the World Cup season he again managed two top 10 places, sixth in downhill and seventh in Super G.
Didier was denied a second career victory in the World Cup in December of 2005 when he was disqualified after winning the super-combined in Val d'Isere. The disqualification was due to illegal bindings which raised the gap between the skier's boots and skis above the FIS limit and was upheld despite an appeal from the Swiss skiing association on behalf of the disgruntled athlete. Runner-up on the slope Michael Walchhofer grudgingly accepted the race victory even though he admitted he would have been happier to leave it to the amiable Swiss skier.
The Turin Olympics in 2006 proved to be disappointing for Defago, struggling to break into the top 15 despite doing so throughout the World Cup season. The following year at the World Championships at Are, the Swedish resort almost witnessed the Swiss athlete climb onto the podium in one of the major competitions but his fourth place in the super-combined still remains his best result to date.
Then came the 2008/09 season which changed the athlete's career for good. He began the winter with his usual top 10 finishes and even posted a second place in the Val Gardena superG before Christmas but it was in the month of January that his fortunes would take a turn for the better. With the two big speed classics of Wengen and Kitzbuehel divided by just one week Defago created history by winning both downhill events, putting him firmly on the map of the skiing world.
With those results he jumped to second spot in the downhill standings and third in the overall but unfortunately it was good as it was going to get for the often shy and unassuming Swiss athlete. He finished the season sixth in the overall and took the bottom step of the podium in the downhill standings.
Inconsistency may have afflicted the talented all-rounder over the last few seasons but Didier can almost guarantee himself one podium placing each season and consistent top 10 finishes, driven by his passion and the chance to give the best of himself, make him a contender for a top 10 overall finish every World Cup season.