Famed "El Grillo" Celebrates His 60th Birthday

Nifty, nifty “El Grillo” is sixty.

If you were born in the 1950′s as many of us were—the baby boomers following WWII, and you loved cross-country skiing you could not have helped but to come of age during the ski rein of the part-time fireman and tough-as-nails racing of Maurillio De Zolt. I would be greatly amiss, if I failed in letting this milestone sneak by, another case of being sidetracked by the busyness of life.

The Italian ski pioneer, known as “El Grillo” which loosely translated means “the cricket”, never failed to amaze to have the most amazing tempo for a skier of his era that I can recall. He was often slightly a bundle of complex angles, with arms and legs slashing in all directions. But, this man who never failed to give anything but his best, most gut-wrenching effort, was much admired by your mild-mannered reporter.

During a period of great growth in Italian nordic skiing, DeZolt won an Olympic gold in the relay in 1988, where I had the pleasure of announcing his exploits, along with a pair of silver medals from Calgary and Albertville. His hyper-kinetic, hyper-burst style made him a fan favorite and once skating took hold, he and his team embraced it with utter abandon. In Calgary he amazed us with a second place in the 50km, only to be beaten by Swedish legend Gunde Svan.

De Zolt made his first Olympic appearance in Lake Placid, went to Sarajevo and VM’s at Lahti and Oslo. He took his first VM medals in the picturesque village of Seefeld, high above Innsbruck, by taking a bronze in the 15km and a silver in the relay.

Legions of fans of Squadra Italia count the day at the Lillehammer Games in 1994, when the relay squad of DeZolt, Albarello, Vanzetta and Fauner (who still serves the team as a coach) defeated the world in the thrilling 4x10km relay. It was for many a “where were you moment”.

Time passes for us all, but I take great joy in wishing a Happy 60th Birthday, to the Cricket…..take the day off, you’ve earned it.

And Grazi, Maurillio.

–Peter Graves



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