Innsbruck 1976

The 1976 Olympic Winter Games were awarded to the American city of Denver, but the residents of Colorado got cold feet. They vetoed financing the event and rejected the building of Olympic installations for ecological reasons. Innsbruck stepped in and hosted the Games for a second time only 12 years after its successful 1964 Winter Olympics. There were 37 nations competing this time, with the Soviet Union proving the most successful, winning 13 gold medals.

Figure skating made headlines. For the first time in the history of the sport at the Games, a competitor, Terry Kubicka of the United States, performed a dangerous back flip. While sensational, Kubicka only managed seventh place. The men’s event won by Great Britain’s John Curry with a new Olympic record score. In the women’s event, America’s Dorothy Hamill, as famous for her signature haircut as for her seamless style on ice, won the gold medal. A new figure skating event, ice dancing, was added to the program and, like the pairs, it was dominated by Russian couples. Read more>>>

Australia at these Games

Australia sent a team of eight athletes to compete at the 1976 Winter Olympics, five men and three women. Speed skater Colin Coates, competing at his third Olympics, carried the Australian flag in the Opening Ceremony and achieved the best results of an Australian at the Winter Games up to that time. Racing in all five men’s skating events, he placed sixth in the 10,000m, eighth in the 1500m, 10th in the 5000m, 11th in the 1000m and 23rd in the 500 metres. Coates, 29, had once been coached by Colin Hickey, himself a triple Winter Olympian for Australia.

Coates was an extraordinary athlete who would represent Australia six times at the Winter Olympics. As well, he was a three-time Australian and ten-time Victorian champion in a 14-foot sailing dinghy, a good ice hockey player and a competitive cyclist. Originally from Elwood, Melbourne, he spent around 15 winters in the Netherlands, working at his trade as a plumber. From 1974 to 1984 he was ranked among the top 20 speed skaters in the world. 

Other members of the Australian team in Innsbruck were alpine skiers Kim Clifford, David Griff, Robert McIntyre, Joanne Henke and Sally Rodd; and figure skaters Billy Schober and Sharon Burley.