Let the Winter Games begin
VAIL, Colorado – As many people may know, the Olympics originally began in 776 B.C. as a tribute to the Greek gods.Thousands of people would make the journey every four years to Olympia in order to cheer, watch, and participate in the Games. However, Emperor Theodosius abolished all pagan festivities, including the Olympic Games, in 393 A.D. due to the growing Roman influence in Greece. After this ruling, the Games were not held again until the late 19th century.In 1894, French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin helped found the International Olympic Committee, whose became responsible for reviving the Olympic Games. Two years later, the first modern Olympic Games were organized in Athens, Greece, and then in 1924, the first Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France.At the time, the Winter Olympics were unofficial and referred to as “International Sports Week” due to protests from the Scandinavian countries that Winter Games would interfere with the Nordic Games. In spite of this, they achieved Olympic status in 1926.1924 Winter OlympicsThe first Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France, lasting from Jan. 25 to Feb. 5, 1924. Sixteen nations participated – Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, the U.S., and Yugoslavia.Just over 10,000 paying spectators came to southeastern France to witness the Winter Olympics, which held 16 events in seven sports. While there were 258 athletes who competed in the 1924 Winter Olympics, merely 11 of these athletes were women. The members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team participated in the three Olympic ski events: cross-country, Nordic combined and ski jumping.Anders Haugen, a native of Telemark, Norway, immigrated to the United States in 1908 and settled in Dillon. Before becoming captain of the 1924 U.S. Olympic Ski Team, Haugen won many ski jumping honors, including two U.S. amateur titles, in addition to setting successive world ski jumping records at the Dillon ski jump with a measure of 213 feet in 1919 and 214 feet in 1920.While competing in Chamonix in 1924, Haugen was originally recorded as finishing fourth in the men’s individual ski jumping competition. In 1974, an error was discovered in Thorleif Haug’s score, which caused the two athletes to switch places, and Haugen was awarded the bronze medal for the 1924 Winter Olympic Games. He is the only American to ever win an Olympic medal in ski jumping, and was inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1978.The U.S. finished fifth in the medal count for the 1924 Winter Olympics, with a total of four medals (one gold, two silver and one bronze). The gold medal for the U.S. was won during the opening event, by Charles Jewtraw, in the 5,000 meter speed skating competition. The U.S. men’s ice hockey team received a silver medal, and Beatrix Loughran won a silver medal for her performance in the ladies single’s figure skating.1928 Winter OlympicsSt. Moritz, Switzerland was the location chosen for the second Winter Olympics, which took place from Feb. 11 to Feb. 19, 1928. This was the first time the Winter Games were assembled in a different nation than the Summer Games of the same year.Fourteen events were held in six sports, and 464 athletes participated (26 women and 438 men). A new competition was introduced, the skeleton event, which is considered the world’s first sliding sport, and consequently St. Moritz is referred to as the birthplace of skeleton.Argentina, Estonia, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Romania were the new nations competing in 1928.Norway, Sweden, and Finland dominated all of the skiing events: 18-kilometer cross-country, 50-kilometer cross-country, ski jumping and Nordic combined. The U.S. placed second in the medal tally, with a total of six medals (two gold, two silver and two bronze). The men’s five-man bobsled team won the gold and the silver. Both Jennison Heaton (who was also part of the five-man bobsled team) and John Heaton earned a gold and silver medal in the men’s individual skeleton event, respectively.Beatrix Loughran won a bronze medal for the ladies single’s figure skating and John Farrell won a bronze in the men’s 500-meter speed skating competition.1932 Winter OlympicsThe Winter Olympics were hosted in the United States for the first time at Lake Placid, N.Y., from Feb. 4 to Feb. 13, 1932. The 1932 Winter Olympics was the first and only time the American group race method was used in speed skating, with mass starts and athletes racing against all other competitors, instead of European-style heats.Argentina, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Yugoslavia chose not to compete, but 252 athletes (21 women and 231 men) arrived from 17 nations to participate in 14 events and four sports.Skiing competitions at these Winter Olympic Games were still limited to 18- and 50-kilometer cross-country, Nordic combined and ski jumping. However, with over 250 miles of trails, Lake Placid offered the cross-country skier a series of trails that were unrivaled on this side of the Atlantic. They traversed mountain and valley, forest and ice-covered lake, and granted the skier every possible test of speed and endurance. Again, Norway, Sweden and Finland swept all medals for skiing events.U.S. bobsledding medalist Eddie Eagan, who was from Denver, became the first person to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics – and is still the only person to win gold at both Games. In 1920 at Antwerp, Belgium, he won the boxing competition, and in 1932 at Lake Placid, he was part of the victorious four-man bobsled team.The U.S. won the medal tally, with a grand total of 12 medals (six gold, four silver and two bronze). It was the only time the U.S. won the most medals at the Winter Olympics.