THE UNITED STATES AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS
The United States has sent athletes to compete at every Winter Games since their inception in 1924 at Chamonix, France.
The Americans won four medals at those Games, with speed skater Charles Jewtraw earning the honor of being the country’s first gold medalist with a victory in the 500 meters.
The U.S. has the distinction of being the only nation to win at least one gold medal at each Winter Games.
The Winter Olympic Games have been held 21 times as of the 2010 Vancouver Games. The U.S. has welcomed the world’s best winter athletes for the Games a total of four times: 1932, 1960, 1980, and 2002.
The U.S. first hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 at Lake Placid, New York. The American team thrilled the home fans by capturing a competition-best 12 medals, with a half-dozen golds.
With the 1960 Winter Games held in Squaw Valley, California, the U.S. earned 10 medals, including a very-surprising gold for the men’s ice hockey team. The team won all of its games, with major upsets of Canada and the Soviet Union.
At the 1980 Lake Placid Games, the U.S. men’s ice hockey team again shocked the world by defeating the heavily-favored Soviet Union in a semifinal match-up before going on to take the gold.
Also in 1980, speedskater Eric Heiden became a world-famous celebrity after winning all five men’s golds in his sport.
At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, the U.S. finished third in the gold-medal race with 10, and turned in an impressive second-place standing overall with 34 medals.
In 2010, the U.S. won an all-time best 37 medals to finish atop the overall medal standings.
MY LIST OF THE BEST-EVER AMERICANS AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS
Bonnie Blair: One of the greatest women’s speed skaters of all time, Blair sped her way to six Olympic medals in sprint events, with five podium finishes for golds.
Dick Button: Button revolutionized men’s figure skating by becoming the first skater to perform various jumps and combinations in competition. He won back-to-back Olympic titles between the 1948 and 1952 Games.
Gretchen Fraser: Fraser was one of the early greats in women’s alpine skiing. Her Olympic career was curtailed by World War II. She was finally able to compete at the 1948 St. Moritz Games and captured two medals-including gold in the Slalom-earning her the honor of being the first American with Olympic gold in the sport.
Eric Heiden: An incredibly dominant athlete as a speed skater from the late 1970s through the 1980 Lake Placid Games, Heiden bested all comers in his five events. Displaying remarkable speed and endurance, he was victorious at all distances from 500 to 10,000 meters.
Carol Heiss: Heiss won five consecutive world titles in ladies’ figure skating from 1956-1960. Credited with bringing more athletic performances to the women’s sport, Heiss won Olympic silver in 1956, and improved upon that finish with gold four years later at the Squaw Valley Games.
Dianne Holum: A top performer from her teen years, Holum won four speed skating medals between the 1968 and 1972 Games. Her best finish was gold in the 1500 meters at the Sapporo Games.
Irving Jaffee: Jaffee was a star speed skater from the second half of the 1920s through the 1932 Lake Placid Games. Jaffee was most successful at longer distances, taking golds in the 5000 and 10,000 meters in 1932. He joined teammate Jack Shea, who won the 500 and 1500 meters, in leading the U.S. to a sweep of the speed skating titles at the Lake Placid Games.
Andrea Mead-Lawrence: Competing at the 1952 Oslo Games, Mead-Lawrence showed her skills as a slalom skier and won a pair of golds-the first American to achieve the feat in alpine skiing.
Bode Miller: The most successful men’s alpine skier for the U.S., Miller won overall World Cup titles in 2005 and 2008. At the Olympics, he has secured five podium finishes, and finally got a long-coveted gold with the Super Combined title at the Vancouver Games. An aging Miller could figure in the races for the medal podium at the upcoming Sochi Games.
Apolo Ohno: The most decorated Winter Olympian for the U.S., Ohno was one of the stars of short-track speed skating in the decade from 2001-2010. He has 21 World Championships medals to his credit, including eight golds. At the Olympics, Ohno impressed at the three Games spanning 2002-2010, winning eight medals-two of them gold.
Picabo Street: Street was a popular skiing star in the 1990s. She overcame numerous injuries to win two Olympic medals: silver in the Downhill in 1994, and gold in the Super G four years later at the Nagano Games.
Shaun White: Perhaps the most famous competitive snowboarder, White helped popularize his sport with many titles at the Winter X Games, along the way to it earning Olympic status. He captured the Halfpipe golds in 2006 and 2010.
Chris Witty: A top women’s speedskater for the U.S. just over a decade ago, Witty earned silver and bronze podium finishes at the Nagano Games in the 1000 and 1500 meters respectively. She reached the pinnacle of her career four years later by taking the gold in the 1000 meters at the Salt Lake City Games.
Beatrix Loughran: A women’s figure skating star in the 1920s, Loughran won the singles’ silver at the first Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, and then earned the bronze four years later at the St. Moritz Games. She capped off her Olympic career in 1932 at the first Lake Placid Games with the mixed pairs’ silver, teaming with Sherwin Badger.
Johnny Spillane: An elite competitor in Nordic Combined last decade, Spillane finished off his Olympic career with a trio of silver medals at the Vancouver Games. His individual medals came in the 10-km Large Hill and the 10-km Normal Hill events.
Lindsey Vonn: Street’s successor for the U.S. women in alpine skiing, Vonn captured gold in the Downhill and bronze in the Super-G at the Vancouver Games. She was expected to be a leading medal contender again at the Sochi Games, but two significant knee injuries this year put her participation in doubt.
All statistics and other information on the athletes mentioned above can be found at: www.sports-reference.com/olympics/countries/USA/winter/
Patrick Hattman covered the London Games for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He is looking forward to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.