Sapporo 1972

Games History

The 1972 Olympic Winter Games were held in Sapporo, Japan, under the pristine shadow of Mount Eniwa. They were the first Winter Games to be held in Asia and the first to be held outside of Europe or the United States. The Soviet Union was to prove the strongest team, winning eight gold medals, double the total of any other nation at the Games.

The subject of amateurism stirred controversy when the IOC threw Karl Schranz, Austria’s alpine skiing hero, out of the Games. The IOC banned him because he received payment from product manufacturers for appearing in advertisements. Furious, the Austrian team pulled out altogether, then re-entered at Schranz’s urging.

Galina Kulakova of the Soviet Union entered all three cross-country races for women and finished first in all of them. She won the 5km and 10km individual events and anchored the Soviet relay team to victory. Adrianus "Ard" Schenk of the Netherlands convincingly won three golds in speed skating in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m events, setting two new Olympic records.

In alpine skiing, little-known Marie-Thérès Nadig of Switzerland won both the women’s downhill and giant slalom. Norway’s Magnar Solberg won the men’s 20km cross-country race to become the first repeat winner in an individual biathlon event. The biggest surprise of the Games was the victory of Spain’s 21-year-old Fernandez "Paquito" Ochoa in the men’s slalom by a full second. His gold medal was the first  to be won by a Spanish athlete in the Winter Olympics. The Soviet Union won its third successive ice hockey gold medal.

Japan had never won a gold medal in the Winter Olympics prior to hosting the Games in Sapporo. In front of home fans, ski jumper Yukio Kasaya produced the best jump of each of the two rounds to earn the gold medal in the normal hill event. His teammates Akitsugu Konno and Seiji Aochi completed the Japanese sweep with silver and bronze.