In 1952, the Olympics were held in Norway, the birthplace of modern skiing. Germany and Japan were invited back to compete as good weather and good spirits prevailed. The Winter Olympic flame was lit for the first time at the 1952 Olympic Winter Games.
Speed skater Hjalmar Andersen starred for the host nation, winning three gold medals. His winning margins in the 5000m and the 10,000m were the largest in Olympic history. Meanwhile, the 18km cross-country skiing title was won by Norway’s national steeplechase champion, Hallgeir Brenden, a lumberjack and farmer. Such successes helped Norway end the Games as the most successful nation, winning seven gold medals.
In alpine skiing, the combined event was dropped and replaced by the giant slalom. Andrea Mead Lawrence of the United States won both the giant slalom and the slalom at just 19-years-old. Canada won the ice hockey tournament for the fifth time, bringing their cumulative Olympic record to 37 wins, one loss and three ties. In those 41 games they had scored 403 goals while conceding only 34. For the first time, a cross-country skiing event was held for women. The winner was Lydia Wideman of Finland.
The Germans gave new meaning to the term “heavy sledding”. Their bobsleigh team thundered to two gold medals. The two-man crew weighed in at more than 520 pounds and their hefty four-man team tipped the scales at well over 1,020 pounds. After the Games, Olympic officials announced new weight limits of 220 pounds per man.
Australia at these Games
Australia sent a team of nine athletes to Oslo - three in alpine skiing (Robert Arnott, William Day and Barry Patten), two in cross-country skiing (Bruce Haslingden and Cedric Sloane), three in figure skating (Adrian Swan, Nancy Hallam and Gweneth Molony) and one in speed skating (Colin Hickey).
Hickey would go on to represent Australia three times at the Winter Olympics from 1952 to 1960. At the age of 18, Hickey took a ship to Europe to try his luck in the speed skating hub of Norway. Finding work as a lumberjack he learned to speak Norwegian and became caught up in the short but hectic winter skating seasons. “We did it hard, lived maybe two weeks at a time on just muesli. It was difficult, but I had some of the best times of my life then,” he said.
One of the figure skaters was Gweneth Molony. She was one of only two women in the team. Her daughter, Joanne Henke, later represented Australia in alpine skiing in the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, Austria.