olympians competing in BOTH Seasons

Seiko Hashimoto was recently named as the new President of the Organizing Committee for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Ms. Hashimoto competed in the Olympics in both cycling and speed skating, as I noted in some tweets on the day she was announced as President. I’ve had several people ask me about athletes competing in both the Summer and Winter Olympics and how rare that is, which has prompted me to prepare this blog on “Both Season Olympians (BSOs)”. And as you will see, Ms Hashimoto’s name will figure prominently in the following.

It’s very rare to be an Olympic athlete. Since 1896 there have been about 135,400 Olympic athletes to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics. By looking at historical populations and birth rates (see OurWorldInData.org), one can estimate that since 1870 through 2000, the period during which most of these athletes had to have been born, there have been about 12,600,000,000 births in the world, or between 12 and 13 billion. That means the chance of any person born in this period becoming an Olympic athlete is about 0.001% – 1/1000th of 1 percent.

How many of these 135,400 Olympians have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, as did Ms. Hashimoto? There have been exactly 142 Olympians to compete at both Olympic Games through 2018, or about 0.1% of all Olympians, meaning the chance of any person born between 1870-2000 has had a 0.000001% chance of competing at both Olympic Games.

Who are these 142 extraordinary Olympians? They have come from 41 different nations, with the following nations having the most BSOs.

United States10
Great Britain6

Which sports have they doubled in? To date, 8 Olympians, 2 women and 6 men, have competed in 3 different sports/disciplines at the Winter and Summer Olympics, as follows:

Jaqueline MourãoFBRABIA/CCS/CYC2004-2018
Georgia SimmerlingFCANASK/CYC/FRS2010-2016
István DévánMHUNATH/CCS/NCO1912-1924
Erik ElmsäterMSWEATH/CCS/NCO1948-1952
Aleksandar MilenkovićMIOA/SCG/YUGBIA/CCS/CYC1992-2006
Béla SzepesMHUNATH/CCS/NCO1924-1928
Philippe Van VolckxsomMBELICH/ROW/SSK1920-1928
Willi ZachariasMROUASK/CCS/HAN1936

Note that Willi Zacharias did this all in 1936. Until 1992 it was possible for Olympians to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year, as the Games were not separated until the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.

So in which sports should you specialize if you wish to compete in both editions of the Olympics? There have been 50 different combinations of sports among these 142 BSOs. The most common combinations are in the table below:

Cross-Country Skiing/Cycling8
Hockey/Ice Hockey7
Athletics/Cross-Country Skiing5
Football/Ice Hockey4
Athletics/Cross-Country Skiing/Nordic Combined3
Biathlon/Cross-Country Skiing/Cycling2
Bobsledding/Equestrian Events2
Cycling/Short-Track Speedskating2
Ice Hockey/Sailing2

This is now well-known, as bobsledders are often recruited from track & field athletes, but it was not always so. Johann Baptist Gudenus (AUT) did it in 1932, but it was not until 1968 that it occurred again, when Britain’s Colin Campbell and Switzerland’s Eddy Hubacher first competed, and eventually appeared at both Games in athletics and boblsedding. However, it did not become commonplace until the 1980s.

I mentioned that prior to 1994 Olympians could compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year. Was that a frequent occurrence? It actually happened 39 times, and 2 athletes did it in 2 separate years – Charles Stoffel (LUX) competed in bobsledding and equestrian, quite the unusual combination, in both 1924 and 1928; and the ubiquitous Seiko Hashimoto competed in cycling and speed skating in both 1988 and 1992.

How many BSOs have competed in the Summer and Winter Olympics more than once each? This has only been done 10 times, by 4 women and 6 men, led by the redoubtable Seiko Hashimoto, who competed at the Summer Games three times (1988/1992/1996) and the Winter Games four times (1984/1988/1992/1994), for a total of 7 appearances, the most ever by this group of 142 BSOs. The only other Olympian to compete at the Summer and Winter Olympics 3 times each is Canadian cyclist/speed skater Clara Hughes.

What about winning a medal at both the Winter and Summer Olympics – has this been done? Yes, it has, and 5 times, by the following athletes:

Eddie EaganMUSABOX1920BOB1932
Jacob Tullin ThamsMNORSAI1936SKJ1924
Christa Rothenburger-LudingFGDRCYC1988SSK1984/88/92
Clara HughesFCANCYC1996SSK2002/06/10
Lauryn WilliamsFUSAATH2004/12BOB2014

Of these, there were 2 men and 3 women, although a man has not done it since Jacob Tullin Thams in 1936. Of the above, only Eddie Eagan won gold medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Seiko Hashimoto does not make this list but she did win 1 Olympic medal, a bronze in the 1,500 metres speed skating at Albertville in 1992.

And there you have it.