Lake Placid 1932

The third Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York State, a town of fewer than 4,000 people. Franklin Roosevelt, then New York’s governor, officially opened the Games. Because of the distance from Europe, only 17 nations competed.  However, the 78,000 spectators made up for the lack of international competitors. The United States led the medal tally for the first time, winning six gold medals.

Sonja Henie of Norway defended her figure skating title, as did the French pair of Andrée and Pierre Brunet. Unfortunately, Gillis Grafstrom was thwarted in his attempt at winning a fourth gold medal in the men’s figure skating, placing second behind Austrian Karl Schäfer. 

One of the winning American four-man bobsleigh team members was Eddie Eagan, who won gold in the light-heavyweight boxing event at the Antwerp 1920 Olympics. Eagan remains the only person in Olympic history to win gold medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. 

Another US champion of note was John “Jack” Shea, who won two speed skating gold medals. His son, Jim, would compete in cross-country skiing at the Innsbruck 1964 Winter Olympics. His grandson, also named Jim Shea, won the gold medal in skeleton at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, making the Shea clan the first three-generational Olympic family. Sadly, Jack died a month before Jim’s success, making the family’s story one of the most moving of recent Olympics. 

The Canadians scored their third successive win in ice hockey and Scandinavian athletes starred in the skiing events.

At the speed skating, there was much controversy caused by the use of the North American Rules, which allowed for rough-and-tumble mass starts rather than pairs of skaters racing against the clock. This led to the US and Canadian skaters dominating, with European athletes struggling to adjust to the more physical style of racing.

Australia at these Games

Australia did not make its Olympic Winter Games debut until Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936