Summer / Winter Olympic Sports Doubles

Simply making an Olympic team is often considered among the ultimate athletic accomplishments. It signifies that you have reached the highest level of competition in your sport. But in some cases athletes have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, which has to be an even rarer feat. How common is it?

Actually, it has happened 128 times. And it has been done in a dizzying array of 47 different sport combinations. By far the most common both season Olympians are in athletics (track & field) and bobsledding, with 40 Olympians competing in this combination.

The first to do that was the Belgian Max Houben,  who competed in athletics in 1920 and bobsledding in 1928-48. He was followed by Austrian Johann Baptist Gudenus, a 1932-36 bobsledder and Olympian in athletics in 1936. There was then a large gap before this occurred again, with Britain Colin Campbell (1968/72 ATH, 1976 BOB), and Swiss Edy Hubacher (1968 ATH, 1972 BOB).

In 1980 at Lake Placid Willie Davenport competed in bobsledding for the United States. A four-time Olympian (1964-76), and gold medalist in the high hurdles in 1968, Davenport was recruited to bobsledding for his leg strength and drive, to help with the push starts. It began a trend of top track & field athletes competing in bobsled. The best known was likely East German 1988 decathlon silver medalist Torsten Voss, who pushed a bob at Nagano in 1998 for Germany.

From the United States, another famous athlete who competed in Olympic bobsledding (1992) was NFL running back Herschel Walker. Walker was a top track & field in high school but never competed in the Summer Olympics.

Multiple athletics stars have been recruited since, with the United States possibly including Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams on their women’s bobsled squads for Sochi.

Prior to this trend of athletics/bobsledding doubles, the most common both season sport double was cycling and speedskating, and it is still the second most common with 16 athletes having accomplished it. This combination occurred because the muscles and the training for both sports is similar, and athletes would often use the “other” sport for off-season training.

Two cyclists / speedskaters have won Olympic medals in both sports – Canadian Clara Hughes and German Christa Rothenburger-Luding. No athlete / bobsledder has yet pulled off the Winter / Summer medal double. This has been done by other athletes – notably Eddie Eagan, an American who won a gold medal in 1920 boxing and 1932 bobsledding, the only Olympian to have won gold medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympics. Norwegian Jacob Tullin Thams won Olympic medals in both ski jumping and sailing – there’s a combination for you.

It was even rarer for athletes to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year, although that can no longer occur. This was done 41 times. Most notable was the accomplishment of Japanese female cyclist / speedskater Seiko Hashimoto who competed at the Winter and Summer Olympics in 1988 and 1992. The only other Olympian to have done this twice was the Swiss Charles Stoffel, who, in the days of more gentlemanly bobsled competition, competed in equestrian and bobsledding in 1924 and 1928.

Here are the sport doubles for both season Olympians, in order of frequency:

Summer                               Winter                                                                         ###

Athletics                              Bobsledding                                                                40

Cycling                                 Speedskating                                                              16

Cycling                                 Cross-Country Skiing                                               9

Hockey                                 Ice Hockey                                                                      7

Athletics                             Cross-Country Skiing                                               4

Football                               Ice Hockey                                                                      4

Athletics                             Cross-Country Skiing / Nordic Combined   3

Cycling                                 Short-Track Speedskating                                     2

Equestrian Events         Bobsledding                                                                   2

Hockey                                 Bobsledding                                                                   2

Rowing                                 Bobsledding                                                                   2

Sailing                                   Ice Hockey                                                                      2

Athletics                             Biathlon                                                                            1

Athletics                             Figure Skating                                                               1

Athletics                             Ice Hockey                                                                      1

Boxing                                 Bobsledding                                                                    1

Canoeing                           Cross-Country Skiing                                                1

Canoeing                           Luge                                                                                     1

Cycling                                Biathlon / Cross-Country Skiing                        1

Cycling                               Bobsledding                                                                     1

Fencing                              Bobsledding                                                                     1

Fencing                              Ice Hockey                                                                        1

Football                             Bobsledding                                                                     1

Handball                           Alpine Skiing / Cross-Country Skiing                1

Judo                                    Bobsledding                                                                      1

Modern Pentathlon   Cross-Country Skiing                                                 1

Modern Pentathlon   Military Ski Patrol                                                        1

Modern Pentathlon   Nordic Combined                                                         1

Modern Pentathlon   Speedskating                                                                   1

Rowing                               Cross-Country Skiing                                                1

Rowing                               Ice Hockey                                                                        1

Rowing                               Ice Hockey / Speedskating                                      1

Rowing                               Luge                                                                                      1

Rowing                               Military Ski Patrol                                                        1

Rowing                               Speedskating                                                                   1

Sailing                                 Alpine Skiing                                                                    1

Sailing                                 Bobsledding                                                                     1

Sailing                                 Ski Jumping                                                                       1

Shooting                            Biathlon                                                                              1

Shooting                            Figure Skating                                                                 1

Softball                               Ice Hockey                                                                       1

Swimming                         Bobsledding                                                                    1

Swimming                         Figure Skating                                                                1

Swimming                         Ski Jumping                                                                      1

Water Polo                       Bobsledding                                                                     1

Weightlifting                  Bobsledding                                                                      1

Wrestling                          Bobsledding                                                                     1

Totals                                                                                                                               128

How many will add to this list in Sochi? Certainly there will be a few athlete / bobsledders. Anybody else?

 

(Note: the author has a personal connection here – see the photos below of the cyclist / speedskater (guy on the left in the cycling picture). That guy went to the US Olympic Trials in cycling and speedskating in 1948, but did not make either Olympic team. That guy, however, was an Olympian of a Dad. And that folks, for your information, is how I first became interested in the Olympic Games.)

Dad Skating

Dad Cycling

(Note: tomorrow we will start providing factsheets for the 15 Winter Olympic sports to be held in Sochi. Stay tuned.)

9 thoughts on “Summer / Winter Olympic Sports Doubles”

  1. Perhaps worth noting that Max Houben was the driver of the bobsleigh – most athletics to bobsleigh converts are runners or brakesmen. Do we have stats for that? (I know we do!)

    1. Alex, the swimmers were Karl Schäfer (Austria, also figure skater), Martial Van Schelle (Belgium, also bobsledder) and Ari Guðmundsson (Iceland, also ski jumper).

  2. Made some research in Belgium and Max Houben is not the only one who doubled summer and winter Olympics. We have 10 athletes who have done so. Here is the list:

    Charles Bouvy (field hockey 1968 et 1972, bobsleigh 1964)
    Jean-Marie Buisset (field hockey 1964, 1968, 1972, bobsleigh 1964)
    Albert Casteleyns (water-polo 1936, bobsleigh 1952, 1956)
    Max Houben (athletics 1920, bobsleigh 1928, 1932, 1936, 1948)
    André Georges Poplimont (fencing 1932, ice hockey 1924)
    Léon Tom (fencing 1912, 1920, 1924, 1928, bobsleigh 1928)
    Charles Vandendriessche (rowing 1928, ice hockey 1924, 1936)
    Louis Van Hege (football 1920, bobsleigh 1932)
    Martial Van Schelle (swimming 1920, 1924, 1928, bobsleigh 1936)
    Philippe Van Volckxsom (rowing 1928, ice hockey and speed skating 1924)

    Among those 4 have won a medal: Van Hege (Antwerp 1920, gold football), Houben (Saint-Moritz 1948, silver bobsleigh), Tom (Antwep 1920 and Paris 1924, silver fencing) and Casteleyns (Berlin 1936, bronze water-polo).

  3. In the Belgium team in Sochi, you will also have Hanna Mariën (bobsleigh) who will be the first Belgian female athlete to double w & s Olympics. She was a member of the Belgian 4 x 100 m-relay team who won silver in Beijing 2008 behind Russia (w. Olivia Borlée, Elodie Ouedraogo and Kim Gevaert)

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