Olympians with a disability – Part Two

Part two in a series on people who have competed at the Olympic Games despite suffering from a physical disability.

Lis Hartel (DEN) – Equestrianism
2 silvers

In the 1930s Lis Hartel was coached by her mother Else Holst, but when she reached a national competitive level, Gunnar Andersen, a professional horseman, took over. In the early part of her career she competed in both jumping and dressage, and was Danish champion in dressage in 1943 and 1944. Later in 1944, she was struck by polio. At that time she was pregnant with her second child, and no one thought that she ever would be able to compete on horseback again. But through her determination and strong will she gradually regained function in most of her muscles, although she remained paralyzed below her knees for the rest of her life.

In 1947 she started to compete in dressage again, and she improved her dressage skill together with her excellent horse Jubilee and was selected for the Danish team in the 1952 games. Although she needed help to get on and off her horse, she surprised everybody by winning the silver medal in the dressage competition in Helsinki. Four years later she won another dressage silver medal at the Equestrian Games in Stockholm, also this time together with her favourite horse Jubilee. She won the unofficial world championships in dressage in 1954, and was Danish champion in dressage in 1952, 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1959, the last time with a new horse, Limelight.

Lis Hartel’s equestrian achievements caught interest among ordinary sport interested people in Scandinavia, where equestrian among many was regarded as an upper-class sport. She was a charming and charismatic woman, extremely popular not only among followers of equestrians, but also among people outside the horse circles. She also became a role model of other victims of polio, showing what was possible to achieve through training and determination. She was invited to do dressage exhibitions in several countries in Western Europe, and raised funds for treatment of polio victims. In Doorn in the Netherlands, a centre for disabled was named after her, the Lis Hartel Foundation.

Natalia Partyka (POL) – Table tennis
Natalia Partyka was born without a right hand or forearm. She began to play table tennis at the age of seven and four years competed in the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney. At eleven years of age, she became the youngest Paralympian in history. By 2004 she was clearly the Paralympic table tennis player and began to make an impact in able bodied competition by winning the European Cadets title. Partyka has gone on to win three consecutive Paralympic titles, compete in both the Beijing and London Olympics and win medals at the able bodied European Championships.

Paola Fantato (ITA) – Archery
At age 8, Paola Fantato was diagnosed with polio, and has been wheelchair-bound since. She picked up archery in her twenties, and quickly became quite successful at archery events for disabled. She won a Paralympic bronze medal in 1988, upgrading that to gold in 1992. She was then invited to join the Italian Olympic team and qualified for the Atlanta Games. While eliminated in the first round, she became the first athlete to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year, winning team gold and an individual bronze. Her successes have only increased, adding two golds in Sydney and one in Athens, as well as two world titles to her tally.

Jack Dearlove (GBR) – Rowing
1 silver
Jack Dearlove was 12 years old when he lost the lower part of his leg. He was hitching a lift to cricket practice on a friend’s bicycle when the wheels of the bike stuck in some tram lines. The two boys were thrown into the path of a steam wagon and his friend was killed outright. By the time of the London Olympics of 1948 Dearlove had twenty years’ experience as a coxswain which included steering the Thames Rowing Club to a victory at the Henley Regatta. He refused to wear an artificial leg, walking with the aid of crutches instead, and this proved problematic for the British Olympic Association who forbade him for taking part in the opening ceremony of the London Games.
Dearlove went on to have a successful career in business with the Sainsbury’s organization. His son, Sir Richard Dearlove, served as head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 1999 to 2004.

Figure Skaters in Singles and Pairs

In our Figure Skating Factsheets we gave a list of the Olympic figure skaters who have competed in both singles and pairs at the same Olympic Winter Games, since World War II.

In that list we noted that it used to be much more but it has been done only 12 times since 1948, and only three times since 1972, the last by Australian Stephen Carr in 1994. It has not been done by a woman since West German Tina Riegel in 1980, and prior to that, the last women did it in 1952

But prior to World War II it did occur a bit more often. In all it has been achieved 44 times, 19 by women and 25 by men. Here is the entire list of figure skaters who have competed in singles and pairs at the same Olympic Winter Games, all-time.

Year     Gdr   Name                                                 NOC     ###

1908     F       Madge Syers                                  GBR       1

1920     F       Theresa Weld-Blanchard       USA       1

1920     F       Phyllis Johnson                            GBR       1

1924     F       Theresa Weld-Blanchard       USA      2

1924     F       Andrée Brunet-Joly                   FRA       1

1924     F       Ethel Muckelt                                GBR       1

1924     F       Cecil Smith                                      CAN      1

1928     F       Elvira Barbey                                 SUI         1

1928     F       Theresa Weld-Blanchard       USA       3

1928     F       Melitta Brunner                           AUT      1

1928     F       Andrée Brunet-Joly                   FRA       2

1928     F       Beatrix Loughran                         USA      1

1932     F       Constance Wilson-Samuel     CAN     1

1936     F       Maribel Vinson                              USA      1

1948     F       Grazia Barcellona                         ITA        1

1948     F       Suzi Morrow                                   CAN      1

1948     F       Yvonne Sherman                          USA      1

1952     F       Sissy Schwarz                                 AUT      1

1980     F       Tina Riegel                                       FRG      1

1920     M      MacDonald Beaumont             GBR      1

1920     M      Nathaniel Niles                             USA      1

1920     M      Basil Williams                                GBR      1

1924     M      Pierre Brunet                                 FRA      1

1924     M      Nathaniel Niles                             USA      2

1924     M      Jack Page                                          GBR     1

1924     M      Melville Rogers                             CAN     1

1928     M      Sherwin Badger                             USA     1

1928     M      Pierre Brunet                                  FRA     2

1928     M      Jack Eastwood                               CAN    1

1928     M      Nathaniel Niles                             USA      3

1928     M      Jack Page                                          GBR     2

1928     M      Robert Van Zeebroeck             BEL      1

1928     M      Ludwig Wrede                               AUT     1

1932     M      Bud Wilson                                      CAN    1

1936     M      Ernst Baier                                       GER     1

1936     M      George Hill                                      USA     1

1948     M      Wallace Diestelmeyer              CAN    1

1948     M      Carlo Fassi                                       ITA       1

1948     M      Ede Király                                        HUN     1

1948     M      Helmut Seibt                                 AUT      1

1952     M      Kurt Oppelt                                   AUT      1

1972     M      Ken Shelley                                    USA      1

1994     M      Stephen Carr                                 AUS      1

It has never happened that an ice dancer has competed in singles at the Winter Olympics. If we suspect the above combination of singles / pairs may never happen again, I’ll state categorically that no figure skater will ever compete in singles and dance at the Olympics – the dancers don’t do enough jumps.

In the above list two skaters did this 3 times and they were partners – Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld-Blanchard skated pairs at the 1920/1924/1928 Winter Olympics, and both also competed in singles at those Olympics. This was also done twice by the husband/wife team of Pierre Brunet and Andrée Brunet Joly at the 1924 and 1928 Winter Olympics.

Finally British skater Jack Page did this twice as well in 1924 and 1928, skating both times with Ethel Muckelt. Muckelt competed in singles in 1924 but not in 1928.

A most unusual scenario, however, has occurred more recently in the case of Japanese-American figure skater Rena Inoue. Born in Japan, Inoue competed in both singles and pairs in her native country. She skated pairs at the 1992 Winter Olympics alongside Tomoaki Koyama, placing 14th. Inoue then returned to the Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994, but competed in singles, finishing 18th. She moved to the United States in 1996 at her father’s urging after he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Inoue herself developed cancer in 1998 but it was cured by chemotherapy and she returned to figure skating in 2000. In 2006, by then skating with John Baldwin, Inoue competed in her third Olympics, again in pairs, and they finished 7th. Baldwin and Inoue became engaged in 2008 and later married.

Don’t look to see anything like this happening in Sochi. But hey, they gave the singles skaters a team trophy for 2014 so they’ll have something else to do.

Olympians with a disability – Part One

For a few days this week it appeared that legally blind cross-country skier Brian McKeever was to win a place of the Canadian team at Sochi. Unfortunately for him an eight place finish in the last Canadian trial race means his chances of becoming an Olympian this time round are now extremely slim. McKeever did make the team for the Vancouver Games but was left on the side lines by the team coaches and did not take part in the Olympic races. So it looks like we may have to wait a little longer for an athlete with a disability to take a full part in the Winter Games. The Summer Games is an entirely different matter and the list of competitors who have triumphed over disability is a lot longer than you might think. Read on…

1904 St. Louis
George Eyser (USA) – Gymnastics
3 gold medals, 2 silver, 1 bronze
Born in Germany, George Eyser arrived in the US as a child. It is believed that he lost most of his left leg in an accident either with a train or a trolley car – there are conflicting reports. To compensate for this loss he developed his upper body strength and became a gymnast. Competing at the 1904 Olympics he won 6 medals in a single day and won gold in the vault, parallel bars and the now obsolete rope climb.

Bobby Bridge (GBR) – Athletics
The first person with a disability to compete in Olympic track and field, Bobby Bridge qualified for the Stockholm Games despite the handicap of his left arm being amputated at the elbow. A competitor in the 10,000 m race walk, he had the misfortune to be disqualified for running. In one race at Stamford Bridge in 1914 he broke the world record for every distance from 11 miles to 16 miles. He was a qualified dentist.

Brian Pickworth (NZL) – Fencing
Brian Pickworth was a promising rugby player until he lost his left arm above the elbow in a shooting accident when he was 21 years old. He then switched to fencing and represented New Zealand not only in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome but also in the Empire (Commonwealth) Games in 1958 in Cardiff and in 1962 in Perth fencing all three weapons.

Neroli Fairhall (NZL) – Archery
Originally a track & field athlete, Neroli Fairhall became paralysed from the waist down following a motorcycle accident. She continued her athletics career, competing in the 1972 Paralympic Games in various events in track and field. She then switched to archery, winning the gold in the 1980 Paralympics. She started competing with able-bodied athletes, from her wheelchair. When archery made its only appearance at the Commonwealth Games in 1982, she won the gold medal. Two years later, she became the first paraplegic to compete at the Olympics. Fairhall did not return to the Olympics, but competed twice more in the Paralympic Games, in 1988 and 2000. She retired after the latter event, switching to coaching. She passed away at the age of 61, of an illness related to her disability.

Olivér Halassy (HUN) – Water Polo
2 gold, 1 silver
Olivér Halassy was eight years old when he lost his left leg from the knee down following an accident as he attempted to jump on board a tram. 25 times a Hungarian national champion in swimming and European champion over 1500 m freestyle in 1931, Halassy was even better known as a water polo player. He was a vital part of the Hungarian team that dominated the sport in the 20s and 30s and won Olympic titles in 1932 and 1936 as well as silver in 1928 and three Olympic titles. Halassy was being driven home one night in 1946 when his taxi was stopped by a Soviet military patrol. An argument broke out between his driver and the soldiers and both driver and passenger were shot dead. He was just 37 at the time of his death.

Marla Runyan (USA) – Athletics
Being legally blind (due to Stargardt’s disease), runner Marla Runyan initially focussed on competing in events for visually impaired athletes. She was highly successful, winning three sprint events and the long jump at the 1992 Paralympics, while also competing in cycling. She added a fifth title at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, winning the pentathlon and a silver in the shot put. But Runyan also aspired to compete in the Olympics, and had tried to qualify for the heptathlon at the US Olympic Trials, placing 10th. Her good 800 m in that competition convinced her to switch to middle distance running. This switch proved a good choice, and in 1999 Runyan won the 1500 m at the Pan American Games, and reached the World Championship final in the same event. She repeated that performance in Sydney, placing 8th in the Olympic final. She then turned her attention to long distance running, eventually competing in the 2004 Olympic 5 km, and placing 4th in the 2002 New York Marathon.

Part two of this article will follow soon.

Individual Medal Sweeps

We described yesterday how nations have swept the medals at various Winter Olympic events. An individual can never do that at one Olympics, obviously (although see below re Beckie Scott), but an individual medal sweep is possible, if an athlete can win a full set of Olympic medals – gold, silver, and bronze.

Now this is not so uncommon, but it is rare when an athlete achieved an individual medal sweep in the same individual event. In fact, it has only happened 10 times at the Winter Olympics, as follows:

Athlete                                              Gdr   NOC   Sport  Event              Meds

Claudia Pechstein                             F      GER   SSK    5K               3/1/1 – 5

Silke Kraushaar                                  F      GER   LUG   Singles      1/1/1 – 3

Karin Enke-Kania                              F      GDR  SSK    500 m        1/1/1 – 3

Claudia Pechstein                             F      GER   SSK    3K               1/1/1 – 3

Christa Rothenburger-Luding   F      GER   SSK    500 m       1/1/1 – 3

Kari Traa                                                 F      NOR   FRS    Moguls    1/1/1 – 3

Armin Zöggeler                                 M     ITA      LUG    Singles     2/1/2 – 5

Knut Johannesen                             M     NOR   SSK    10K            1/1/1 – 3

Ådne Søndrål                                     M      NOR   SSK    1,500 m   1/1/1 – 3

Bob de Jong                                        M     NED    SSK    10K            1/1/1 – 3

Note that German Claudia Pechstein has actually done this twice, in the 3,000 and 5,000 metres speedskating events, with 5 medals in the 5,000. Italian luger Armin Zöggeler has also won 5 medals in one individual event, in men’s singles luge.

Pechstein’s record would likely be more impressive except that she missed the 2010 Winter Olympics because of a suspension due to suspicion of blood doping due to abnormal reticulocytes in her blood sample. She returned in 2011 and continues to compete and should be in Sochi. In 2013 she won bronze medals in both the 3,000 and 5,000 at the World Single-Distance World Championships, so she could certainly extend these records. She also won bronze medals in the 5K at that tournament in both 2011 and 2012, making her a strong threat to medal in the 5K in Sochi.

Five athletes have won 5 Olympic medals in the same event at the Winter Olympics. In addition to Pechstein and Zöggeler, this has been done by the following:

Ricco Groß                     M   GER   Biathlon               Relay           4/1/0 – 5

Georg Hackl                  M   GER   Luge                        Singles        3/2/0 – 5

Harri Kirvesniemi      M   FIN     X-Country Ski   Relay           0/0/5 – 5

Kirvesniemi is the only Olympian to win 5 bronze medals in the same event, Winter or Summer. Except for Pechstein, all are long since retired and will not be winning a sixth medal. But if Pechstein can win a medal in the 5,000 metres at Sochi it would give her 6 medals in the same event, which would be a new best for the Winter Olympics, and equal the record for the Summer Olympics.

Both Aládar Gerevich (HUN) in fencing team sabre and Hans Günter Winkler (FRG) in equestrian team jumping won 6 medals in the same event. Gerevich’s performance is even more remarkable because all of his medals were gold medals.

If she can win a 6th medal in the 5K, Pechstein’s performance would surely outshine Gerevich and Winkler, because hers would be in an individual event.

There is also the unique case of Canada’s Beckie Scott, who can claim a full set of medals from the same event at the same time. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Scott finished third in the pursuit race, behind Russians Olga Danilova and Larisa Lazutina. But both Russians then tested positive for PEDs after the 30 km race, however, they were allowed to initially keep their medals for the pursuit. It was then revealed, however, that Lazutina had tested positive twice at World Cup events prior to Salt Lake City, so she was disqualified from all 2002 Winter Olympic events and Scott moved up to the silver medal. The Canadian Olympic Committee then appealed against Danilova, stating that she should be disqualified from all Olympic events if she tested positive in any event at the Olympics. This was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and Scott then was moved up to the gold medal position, receiving her gold medal on 25 June 2004.

Now in team events, it is much more common to win a full set of Olympic medals in the same event. Here are the 23 Winter Olympians who have done that – 10 women and 13 men:

Name                                      Gdr   NOC  Sport                      Event     Meds

Galina Kulakova                    F     URS   X-Country Ski   Relay     2/1/1 – 4

Angela Ruggiero                    F     USA   Ice Hockey          —            1/2/1 – 4

Jenny Schmidgall-Potter  F     USA   Ice Hockey          —            1/2/1 – 4

Kati Wilhelm                            F     GER   Biathlon              Relay     1/1/1 – 3

Andrea Henkel                       F     GER   Biathlon               Relay     1/1/1 – 3

Albina Akhatova                   F      RUS  Biathlon                Relay     1/1/1 – 3

Alevtina Kolchina                 F      URS  X-Country Ski   Relay     1/1/1 – 3

Marina Klimova                    F      EUN  Figure Skating  Dance   1/1/1 – 3

Tricia Dunn-Luoma             F      USA  Ice Hockey           —           1/1/1 – 3

Katie King                                 F     USA  Ice Hockey           —            1/1/1 – 3

Igor Kravchuk                       M     RUS  Ice Hockey           —            2/1/1 – 4

Jan Behrendt                         M    GER  Luge                        Doubl.   2/1/1 – 4

Stefan Krauße                      M     GER  Luge                        Doubl.   2/1/1 – 4

Wolfgang Hoppe                M     GER  Bobsledding       Four        1/2/1 – 4

Fritz Fischer                          M     GER  Biathlon                Relay      1/1/1 – 3

Eugenio Monti                     M     ITA    Bobsledding        Four        1/1/1 – 3

Eugenio Monti                     M     ITA    Bobsledding        Two         1/1/1 – 3

Markus Zimmermann     M     GER  Bobsledding        Two         1/1/1 – 3

Eero Mäntyranta               M     FIN    X-Country Ski     Relay      1/1/1 – 3

Sergey Ponomarenko      M    EUN  Figure Skating    Dance    1/1/1 – 3

Darius Kasparaitis             M    RUS  Ice Hockey             —            1/1/1 – 3

Aleksey Zhamnov              M    RUS  Ice Hockey             —            1/1/1 – 3

Hannu Manninen               M    FIN    Nordic Comb.     Team      1/1/1 – 3

Note that Eugenio Monti has done this twice, in two-man and four-man bobsledding.

Are any 2014 Olympians in position to achieve an individual medal sweep in an individual event? There are a few who could do this, but the biggest threats are Marlies Schild, Austrian alpine skiier who has a silver and a bronze medal in women’s slalom; and Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Norwegian biathlete who has a gold and a silver in the biathlon pursuit, and needs only a bronze to complete his medal sweep. Schild needs a gold medal in slalom, but she has already won 2 World Cup slaloms in December 2013, and she was the World Cup slalom champion in the last 2 seasons.

Bjørndalen’s is looking after bigger game. If he wins any medal in Sochi, it will give him 12 Winter Olympic medals, tying Bjørn Dæhlie’s Winter Olympic record for most medals won. Can he do it? Can he complete the medal sweep in biathlon pursuit? Can Pechstein win a sixth Olympic medal in the 5,000 metre speedskating? Stay tuned.

Olympic Medal Sweeps

Winning an Olympic medal is a major accomplishment, and a nation usually exults in response. But sweeping all the medals in an event, with all athletes from one nation standing on all steps of the podium, is much rarer, especially at the Winter Olympics.

This has happened 260 times at the Summer Olympics, but only 39 times so far at the Winter Olympics. This has been done by 10 different nations. The entire list of all Winter Olympic medal sweeps is given below.

Year     Sport                                Event            NOC                              Gdr

1952     X-Country Skiing    10 km.           Finland                              F

1960     X-Country Skiing    10 km.           Soviet Union                  F

1964     Alpine Skiing              Downhill     Austria                              F

1964     X-Country Skiing    10 km.           Soviet Union                  F

1964     Luge                                Singles         Germany                           F

1964     Speed Skating           500 m           Soviet Union                   F

1972     Luge                                Singles         German Demo. Rep.    F

1984     Luge                                Singles         German Demo. Rep.    F

1984     Speed Skating           3,000 m       German Demo. Rep.    F

1988     Luge                                Singles         German Demo. Rep.    F

1988     X-Country Skiing    20 km.          Soviet Union                    F

1998     Alpine Skiing             Combined  Germany                           F

2002     Luge                                Singles         Germany                          F

2006     Luge                                Singles         Germany                          F

2010     Luge                                Singles         Germany                          F

1908     Figure Skating          Singles          Sweden                          M

1924     X-Country Skiing    50 km.           Norway                          M

1924     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                          M

1928     X-Country Skiing    15 km.           Norway                         M

1928     X-Country Skiing    50 km.           Sweden                         M

1928     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                         M

1932     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                         M

1932     Ski Jumping                Large hill     Norway                         M

1936     X-Country Skiing    50 km.           Sweden                         M

1936     Nordic Combined   Individual   Norway                         M

1948     X-Country Skiing    15 km.           Sweden                         M

1948     Ski Jumping                Large hill     Norway                         M

1956     Alpine Skiing              GS                  Austria                           M

1956     Figure Skating          Singles         United States             M

1964     Speed Skating           5,000 m      Norway                          M

1972     Luge                                Singles        German Dem. Rep.  M

1972     Ski Jumping                NH               Japan                                M

1992     X-Country Skiing    30 km.        Norway                           M

1992     Speed Skating           5,000 m    Germany                         M

1994     Alpine Skiing             Combined Norway                          M

1998     Speed Skating           10,000 m  Netherlands                M

1998     Speed Skating           3,000 m     Germany                        M

2002     Snowboarding           Halfpipe   United States              M

2006     Alpine Skiing               Slalom       Austria                            M

A couple things are immediately obvious – first of all, Germany or the former German Democratic Republic, is/was really good at sweeping Winter Olympic medals. Germany has had 7 medal sweeps, 5 by women and 2 by the men. The former GDR swept the medals 5 times, 4 by the women, all in luge. Either Germany or the GDR has swept the medals in women’s luge 7 times in all (out of only 13 times the event has been held).

In fact, German dominance of women’s luge approaches that of the Chinese in Summer Olympic diving, or the United States former dominance in that sport. German women have swept the medals in singles luge at the last three Winter Olympics (2002-10). Can they do it again for a four-peat in Sochi?

That’s pretty good, but Norway is the national leader in medal sweeps, with 11 at the Winter Olympics, all by their men in five different sports / disciplines. Here is the national breakdown:

NOC                                       Men    Women    Totals

Austria                                            2             1            3

Finland                                            0             1            1

German Demo. Rep.                1             4            5

Germany                                        2             5            7

Japan                                                1             0            1

Netherlands                                 1             0            1

Norway                                        11             0          11

Soviet Union                                0             4            4

Sweden                                          4              0            4

United States                              2             0            2

Totals                                           24           15         39

Another thing to note is that the United States does not show up much on this list – only 2 medal sweeps by American men – one in 1956 men’s figure skating and one in 2002 snowboarding halfpipe. By contrast, of the 260 Summer Olympic medal sweeps, fully 150 of them were done by the United States, many of them in the early days of the Modern Olympic Games.

One of the most dramatic medal sweeps occurred in 1972 at Sapporo, when the Japanese ski jumpers, who had never won an Olympic medal in that sport / discipline previously, swept the medals in ski jumping on the normal hill, led by Yukio Kasaya.

Only 4 times have the home nations swept the medals. In addition to Japan in 1972 in ski jumping, this was also done in 1964 by the Austrian women in downhill alpine skiing at Innsbruck, the Norwegian men alpine skiiers in the 1994 combined at Lillehammer, and the aforementioned American sweep of men’s snowboarding halfpipe at Salt Lake City in 2002. Russia has never done this at the Winter Olympics, although it was done 4 times by the former Soviet Union, all in women’s events. Can the Russians sweep any of the medals in Sochi?

What’s Coming Up Prior to Sochi

OK, with our three posts this morning on curling, Nordic combined, and speedskating, we have completed publishing the sports factsheets for Sochi. So what’s next?

Over the next few days there will be several posts on different historical and statistical facts about the various Winter Olympics sports. Then next weekend, when the Sochi entries finalize (19 January), we will start publishing national factsheets for all the competing nations, and previous Winter Olympic competing nations. Those will come out over a week or so.

After that will come a series of USA-centric sports factsheets, for the US media (I’ll be working for the USOC media in Sochi). Finally we will publish the grande dame, the General Factsheets, with overall Winter Olympic Information and records, to come shortly before the Opening Ceremony.

Speedskating Factsheets

Olympic History:          Speed skating emerged on the canals of Holland as early as the 13th century, and organized competition was held in The Netherlands as early as 1676.  The Dutch spread the idea of speed skating to their neighbors, Germany, France, and Austria, in the early 19th century.  The Frieslanders of North Holland crossed the Channel and introduced the sport to England, in an area from Cambridge to the Wash known as the Fens, where competition has been held since 1814.  As a result, speed skating in England was originally known as fens skating.

The first recorded competition in speed skating took place in Norway in 1863.  The first world championships were contested in 1889, although the ISU held its first championships in 1893, one year after their formation.  The first known speed skating competition for women took place in 1905 on a straight course in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.  The sport also spread to North America in the mid-1800s.  The first great American racer was Tim Donoghue, who competed from 1863-1875.  His son, Joseph Donoghue, won the 2nd and 3rd unofficial world championships in 1890 and 1891.

Speed skating was contested at the 1924 Olympic Winter Games and has been on the Olympic Winter program since.  Women first competed at the Olympics in 1932 when it was a demonstration sport.  Women’s speed skating as a full medal sport began in 1960.  The program consists of five individual events for men and women.  The men race over 500 metres, 1,000 metres, 1,500 metres, 5,000 metres, and 10,000 metres, while women race over 500 metres, 1,000 metres, 1,500 metres, 3,000 metres, and 5,000 metres.  At Torino in 2006, a team pursuit was added for both men and women.  Similar to the team pursuit in cycling, three skaters raced together, and could win either by overtaking the other team, or simply by finishing first in the heat.  Men raced over 8 laps (a bit less than 3,200 metres) and women over 6 laps (a bit less than 2,400 metres).

Olympic speed skating has almost always been contested in the European system of skating time trials in two-man pairs.  In 1932 at Lake Placid, the Americans convinced the ISU to hold the events in the North American style of pack racing.  Many Europeans boycotted the events as a result and the Americans won all four gold medals.  This style of the sport, however, was later to develop into short-track speed skating, which was admitted to the Olympic program in 1992.

Speed skating is governed internationally by the International Skating Union (ISU), which was founded in July 1892, making it the oldest winter sport IF.  The ISU governs all skating on the Olympic Program – figure skating, speed skating, and short-track speed skating.  As of November 2013, the ISU lists itself as having 87 affiliated national federations, but this is only technically correct.  There are actually only 68 nations affiliated with the ISU, as follows: Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, DPR Korea (North), Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Uzbekistan.

Seventeen nations have two federations – one for figure skating, and one for speed skating.  These seventeen nations are:  Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United States.  This would make 85 affiliated federations, but the ISU also recognizes two “Club” members, who were among the earliest members of the ISU.  These “Club” members represent Stockholm, Sweden (Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb) (1892) and Davos, Switzerland (Internationaler Schlittsschuh-Club Davos) (1896).

Nordic Combined Factsheets

Olympic History:          Nordic combined consists of a cross-country ski race and ski jumping. It was considered the most important Nordic skiing event by the Scandinavians, and has been held at the Olympic Winter Games since the start in 1924. Nordic combined is actually considered, for Olympic purposes, as a discipline of skiing, or more precisely of Nordic skiing. World Championships have been conducted in Nordic combined since 1925 and it has been part of the Holmenkollen Ski Festival since 1892.

Even including 2014, Nordic combined remains the only discipline at the Olympic Winter Games in which women do not compete. Women simply do not compete in this discipline at the international level. There are no official World Championships or World Cups for women and it is not held at Holmenkollen for women. However, some recent articles have described training camps for women in Nordic combined, notably in Russia.

As of 2010, the number of events has grown to three, all for men only, with two individual events and a team event. The two individual Nordic combined events were changed for the 2010 Winter Olympics. From 1924-84, only one Nordic combined event was contested at the Winter Olympics, an individual event over 15 km (or 18 km in the early years), and ski jumping from the normal hill, usually allowing two, sometimes three, jumps. In 1988 the team event was added, which originally had three competitors per team, racing a relay of 3 x 10 km, but in 1998 was changed to four competitors per team, with a relay of 4 x 5 km. In 2002 and 2006 a second individual event was contested, termed the sprint event, which consisted of a 7.5 km cross-country race and a single jump from the large hill.

In 2010 the two individual events were changed to a similar format of a 10 km ski race and a single jump, either from the normal hill or large hill. In each cross-country race, the ski jumping leader starts first, with the other competitors starting behind him using the Gunderson method, with the delay between skiiers determined by the difference in ski jumping points.

As with all skiing disciplines and events, Nordic combined is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS). The FIS governs what it terms six disciplines of skiing – alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding.  Cross-country, ski jumping, and Nordic combined are often termed one sport of Nordic skiing. As of November 2013, there are 120 member nations affiliated to the FIS.  This makes it the largest International Sporting Federation for any winter sport.

The 120 member nations of FIS are as follows: Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, DPR Korea (North), Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kosova, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Marocco, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Rumania, Russia, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Only Kosovo is not an IOC Member nation.

Curling Factsheets

Olympic History:          Curling is a sport played on ice in which players deliver a large stone towards a bulls-eye-type target.  The game is played by two teams of four players each.  One player delivers the stone by hand, while the other three players run in front of it, sweeping the ice to clear it and allow it a clear path to the target.  The ice on which the game is played is called a rink, and the same name is used for the teams.  Teams score points if their stones are closer to the center of the target, called the tee, than the opposing team’s stones.  The game is basically shuffleboard on ice.  The stones weigh approximately 42 lbs. (19 kg.) and are made of granite, with the best ones harvested from a granite formation on Ailsa Craig, a small uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland, owned by the 8th Marquess of Ailsa (the island is now for sale for $2.4 million [US]).

Curling was developed in Scotland as early as the 16th century, although some evidence exists that it developed in the Low Countries of Europe at about the same time.  The first known curling club was the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, formed in 1843 and originally called the Grand Caledonian Curling Club.  During the 19th century, curling spread to many nations of Europe, as well as the United States, New Zealand, and especially, Canada.  In Canada, curling became very popular in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

Curling was a demonstration sport at the 1932, 1988, and 1992 Olympic Winter Games.  Until recently, it was also considered to have been demonstrated at the 1924 Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, but more recent evidence makes it apparent that the sport was on the full Olympic program and we give that 1924 sport full Olympic status below.  In 1936 and 1964, German curling (Eisschießen) was also a demonstration sport at the Olympic Winter Games. Curling returned to the Olympic Winter program in 1998 at Nagano, with a tournament for both men and women. World Championships have been contested for men since 1959 and for women since 1979.

The International Curling Federation (ICF) was created after a meeting in March 1965, organized by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.  Six nations attended the meeting in Perth, Scotland; Canada, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.  The ICF was formed the next year with seven founding nations, with France added to the above six.  The name of the organization was changed to the World Curling Federation in 1991.

The WCF has 53 nations affiliated with it as of November 2013.  This makes it the smallest IF of any IOC-recognized sport, winter or summer.  The nations currently affiliated with the WCF are as follows:  Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, US Virgin Islands, and Wales. All are IOC Members except for Kosovo, and the British countries of England, Scotland and Wales have separate national memberships.

The forgotten gold medal

 Back in 2006, The Herald (Glasgow) started an investigation into the 1924 Olympic curling competition. While the British team (all from the RCCC in Perth, Scotland) had won the event and had earned the same medals as other competitors, the event was later frequently listed as a demonstration sport, and it was not included on the IOC website. The IOC resolved this issue in 2006, reconfirming 82 years after the fact that the Scotsmen were in fact Olympic champions. They also resolved another gold medal from Chamonix Games, although this largely went unnoticed.

The 1924 Winter Olympics were, at that time, not officially called Winter Olympics, although many newspapers referred to them that way at the time. They were an experiment, held under supervision of the IOC and staged by the same organization that ran the Summer Olympics in Paris later that year. Only in 1926, with the experiment deemed a success, were these events officially recognized as Olympic. For two sports, however, the winners disappeared from the record books. In both cases, this is likely because they did not return as medal sports in 1928. Curling, for example, only became a medal sport again in 1998, although it was demonstrated in 1932, 1988 and 1992 (and the related German eisstockschießen was demonstrated in 1936 and 1964).

The second sport that fell into oblivion was the military ski patrol. This competition can be considered a forerunner of modern day biathlon, which became Olympic in 1960. It consisted of a four-man team – all of them soldiers – who would ski a 30 km course. Along the way, there were 18 targets set up at 250 m from the course. Three skiers were allowed to take shots; every hit would mean 30 seconds subtracted from the finishing time.  A variant of this competition would later also be held in biathlon, called the team event (not to be confused with the relay).

In Chamonix, the Swiss team won the gold medal. The quartet had the fastest time, and hit 8 targets. While the Finnish group managed 11 targets, their time was not fast enough to threaten the Swiss gold. France placed third with a team that featured Camille Mandrillon, taker of the Olympic oath at those Games.

In 1928, the military ski patrol returned to the Olympics, but this time it was marked as a demonstration sport. The Swiss attempted to defend their title, but were bested by Norway and Finland. The 1936 edition was won by the Italians, who narroly defeated Finland, with Sweden in third. The sport’s final appearance came in 1948. The Swiss repeated their 1924 victory, while Finland placed second for the fourth time, Sweden again taking third place. None of these events held medal status, but a more modern version of the sport, biathlon, was held in Squaw Valley and has been part of the Winter Games since.