The biggest surprise of the Games was the victory of 21-year-old Francisco Fernandez Ochoa, who won the slalom by a full second. His gold medal was the first ever to be won by a Spanish athlete and remains the only one to have topped a podium at the Olympic Winter Games.
Nicknamed “Paquito”, he was born in Madrid on 25 February 1950 and grew up just outside the Spanish capital, in the town of Cercedilla, next to the small ski resort of Puerto de Navacerrada.
He made his Olympic debut as a 17-year-old at Grenoble 1968, where he also competed in the Downhill and the Giant Slalom. The following year saw him make his FIS World Cup debut.
In his return to the Olympic stage at Sapporo 1972, Fernandez Ochoa had yet to win on the international circuit, though he did have several top-ten finishes to his name.
With bib number 2, the Spaniard took everyone by surprise on the first run, negotiating the gates with speed, agility, setting the best time.
The big favorite and winner of the Giant Slalom three days earlier, Italy’s Gustavo Thöni, finished 1.33 seconds after him in the eighth position.
But Thöni produced a storming second run, stopping the clock at 53.59 seconds to put the pressure back on "Paquito".
Fernandez Ochoa rose to the occasion, producing a faultless second run that was just 0.32 seconds slower than the Italian to beat him to the gold by over a second, with Roland Thöni taking bronze.
Hailed by the rapturous crowd, “Paquito” described his achievement as being “like a Japanese person conquering the bull ring”.
The subject of amateurism stirred controversy again at the Sapporo 1972 Games. Austrian skier Karl Schranz was declared ineligible because he had allowed his name and photo to be used in commercial advertising, but full-time ice hockey players from Communist nations were allowed to compete.
Swiss skier Marie-Thérèse Nadig shocks Sapporo 1972 winning an unexpected double gold in Downhill and Giant Slalom. Still just 17, she had been improving steadily in the months running up to the Winter Games, achieving her first podium finish on the World Cup.
To win the Olympic gold she beats the clear favorite, Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Pröll, herself just 18, but already regarded as the world's best woman skier after winning the Overall, Downhill, and Giant Slalom titles in the 1971 World Cup.
In 1971 Bernhard Russi won the Downhill World Cup title and arrived in Sapporo as the main favorite to win Downhill gold.
When Russi raced out of the gate wearing bib 4 it was immediately clear he had brought his best form to Japan. He produced a lightning-fast run, eventually crossing the line in 1:51.43 seconds. Nobody else could get close to that time, and Russi took gold. Another Swiss athlete, Roland Collombin claimed silver, a massive 0.64 seconds back, with Austria's Heini Messner almost a second behind Russi in third.