Cortina D' Ampezzo 1956

Games History

The 1956 Winter Olympics were held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. For the first time, there was a massive global audience as television beamed images of Olympic skiers and skaters around the world.

The Games was notable for the first appearance by a Soviet Union team, who quickly had a lot to celebrate. They won 16 medals, including seven gold, to lead the medal table. Their speed skaters won three of the four events, while their ice hockey team ended Canada’s domination of early Olympic tournaments.

Toni Sailer, a 20-year-old Austrian plumber and future movie star, outraced his competitors by huge margins in his alpine skiing events. Nicknamed the Kitzbuhel Cannonball, he won all three men’s alpine races - the first clean sweep in Olympic history. He began by winning the giant slalom by 6.2 seconds, the largest margin of victory in the history of Olympic alpine skiing. He then won the slalom, recording the fastest time in both runs, and the downhill by 3.5 seconds.

In the ski jumping events, the Finnish team inaugurated a new aerodynamic style, which consisted of holding the arms flat against the body rather than over the head in a diving position.

Madeleine Berthod from Switzerland celebrated her birthday by winning the downhill by an amazing 4.7 seconds, whilst Pavel Kolchin became the first non-Scandinavian to earn a medal in cross-country skiing.

The United States began to emerge as a definite power in figure skating, with Tenley Albright winning the women’s title and Hayes Alan Jenkins leading an American medal sweep on the men’s side.

For the first time in the history of the Games, the Olympic Oath was sworn by a female athlete - the skier Giuliana Minuzzo, bronze medallist for Italy in the downhill at the 1952 Oslo Games.