Salt Lake City 2002
The Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games saw the expansion of the Olympic program to 78 events, including the return of skeleton and the introduction of women's bobsleigh. Athletes from a record 18 nations earned gold medals. Among the nations celebrating gold medals was Australia, which had never won a Winter Games gold medal before. In Salt Lake it won two: aerial skier Alisa Camplin and short track speed skater Steven Bradbury in the men’s 1000m. Both would emerge as two of the most popular champions of the Games.
Leading the medal table was Norway with 13 gold medals. Norway’s hero was Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who won all four men’s biathlon events, the first biathlete to win four gold medals at a single Games.
Salt Lake featured other outstanding multi-medal results in a number of sports. Samppa Lajunen of Finland won three gold medals in Nordic combined. Switzerland’s Simon Ammann won both the normal hill and large hill ski jumping events, becoming only the second athlete after Finland’s Matti Nykanen to complete the double. German speed skater Claudia Pechstein won two gold medals, including her third consecutive gold medal in the women’s 5000m.
The Games’ greatest star may have been Croatian alpine skier Janica Kostelic. She won gold medals in the slalom, giant slalom and combined events, plus a silver in super-G, in an unprecedented performance of skiing magic.
Georg Hackl of Germany took silver in the luge to become the first person in Olympic history to earn a medal in the same individual event five times in a row. After a 1988 silver medal, Hackl had won three consecutive gold medals entering Salt Lake.
Like Australia, China finally broke through for its first Winter Games gold in Salt Lake, with short track speed skater Yang Yang (A) winning the women’s 500m and 1000m events. The USA also produced some memorable champions. These included Vonetta Flowers, who became the first African American athlete to win a Winter Games gold when she teamed with Jill Bakken in the women's two-man bobsleigh. In skeleton, Jim Shea, whose grandfather had been a 1932 Olympic champion and whose father had also competed at the Games, won the men’s event. Shea competed with a photograph of his late grandfather, who died in a traffic accident a month before the Games, in his helmet. In the final of the men's ice hockey tournament, Canada's ice hockey team won its first gold medal in 50 years, defeating the United States in an enthralling final 5-2. The Canadian team was coached by Wayne Gretzky and featured stars such as Mario Lemieux. Canada’s women’s ice hockey team also won gold.
One of the Games’ great controversies occurred at the figure skating rink. In the pairs event, two gold medals were eventually awarded when a judging scandal was revealed. Russia’s Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya were crowned champions on the night, but after an assessment, Canadians David Pelletier and Jamie Sale, who had been unfairly judged for their free routine, were also awarded gold. Salt Lake was also marred by a number of doping scandals.