Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5, 1932: Three generations

UPDATE: This event has been replaced. See the new entry here.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - The speed skating competition at the 1932 Winter Olympics was unique among Olympiads because of its format. Instead of competing in heats like speed skating was normally done, all competitors were on the track at the same time - think of today's short-track speed skating. It's the only time in Olympic history this was tried in long-track speed skating.

Another thing that stands out for the speed skating in 1932 was American dominance. American men won all four gold medals in speed skating on their home ice, and while speed skating was only a demonstration sport for women in 1932, American women finished first in two of the three events.

On February 5, 1932, Jack Shea made history by becoming the first American to win two gold medals in the same Winter Olympics when he added the 500-meter gold to the 1,500-meter one he had already won. Shea was first only by a matter of scheduling, as fellow American Irving Jaffee won gold in both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter skating events.

Shea's biggest impact to the Olympics came years later, though. In 1964, Jack's son Jim competed in the cross-country and Nordic combined skiing events at the Olympics, and then in 2002, Jim Jr., son of Jim and grandson of Jack, competed in the skeleton at the Salt Lake City games. With Jim Jr.'s success, the Sheas became the first family to have three generations of Olympic athletes. While Jack was able to participate in the torch relay leading up to the 2002 games, he was killed in a car accident just 17 days before his grandson could compete. Jim Jr. honored his grandfather's memory, though, winning a gold medal 70 years after his grandpa had won two.

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