The Olympic Winter Games have been marred by controversy and scandal since the first Games in 1924. From the cheating East German lugers to the sordid figure skating fiasco of Tonya Harding, here are six events that made the headlines:
1. 1924: Calendar controversy in speed skating event at the first Olympic Winter Games
At the Games in Chamonix, France, the Norwegians argued that the 500-meter speed skating final was poorly timed in favor of American Charles Jewtraw, a big underdog who won the gold medal.
“[B]Back then, races were hand-timed – by a cold, frozen hand – on stopwatches, ”author Jack Harris wrote in The Winter Olympics. “And the 500-meter is such a short race that the slow trigger fingers of race officials could drastically affect the finish.”
Jewtraw’s victory, by 1/5 of a second, knocked him out. too much. In a 1983 interview with Illustrated sports, Jewtraw said he had never competed in the 500 before the gold medal race and had not even trained for the Games.
“I wasn’t even nervous on race day,” he said. “Why would I be? I knew I couldn’t win.” But by finishing in 44 seconds, his time beat the Norwegian and Swedish competitors.
“The whole American team rushed out onto the ice,” he said. “They hugged me like I was a beautiful girl.”
2. 1968: A “Dark Shadow” Clouds Alpine Skiing Event
Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy won three gold medals in alpine skiing in Grenoble, France, but his slalom victory was nearly snatched away. Competing in thick fog, Austria’s Karl Schranz, Killy’s main rival, claimed that a mysterious figure in black appeared on the course in his second round. He skidded to stop and called for a new run.
With three witnesses checking his account, the request was granted and Schranz produced a gold medal time. But he was disqualified two hours later after a jury ruled he missed two gates before seeing the odd figure in the second round. Killy kept his gold.
Schranz supporters argued that the mystery man was a French policeman or soldier who deliberately obstructed the race to secure Killy’s victory. The French have suggested that Schranz made up the story.
“I was coming down and I saw a black shadow in front of me,” Schranz said at a press conference. “I wanted to avoid him, and I pulled over. Apparently he was a ski cop.”
When asked if he missed the door before the incident, Schranz said he was “mesmerized by the dark shadow I saw ahead. It is possible that for the time being I missed a door to avoid it “.
3. 1968: the women’s luge race warms up
The women’s luge competition at the Grenoble Games was almost a lock for East Germany. Defending champion and gold medal favorite Ortrun Enderlein placed first; her teammates Anna-Maria Müller and Angela Knösel finished second and fourth.
But when other competitors complained that they saw the East Germans heating the blades of their metal skates, an illegal practice, they were disqualified.
“A member of the jury acted immediately,” said the president of the International Luge Federation, Bert Isatitsch, according to UPI. “He went to the start line and put his hands on the runners. They were warm.
Isatitsch said East German officials used “foul language” when told of the disqualification. “One waved his arms, screaming and screaming,” he told UPI.
After the disqualifications, the Italian Erica Lechner won gold. The West Germans received silver and bronze.
4. 1994: The Harding-Kerrigan Figure Skating Scandal
“Terror on Ice”, “Ice Follies”, “Thin Ice” —writers of newspapers and magazines have had a busy day following the most notable scandal in figure skating. Americans Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were at the center of events that inspired documentaries, a Seinfeld TV episode, song parodies and feature film.
A month before the 1994 Winter Games, a man wielding a metal baton attacked gold-medal favorite Kerrigan during training at the US Nationals, paving the way for Harding to win the event and qualify for the Olympics.
Soon after, however, it was discovered that Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly had planned the attack. With Kerrigan recovered and Harding cleared to compete despite her as yet unconfirmed link to crime, the women’s figure skating competition became the hottest event of the Olympics. Television viewing ratings have skyrocketed.
The event was punctuated by Harding’s spectacular stoppage in his long program and officials granted him a new skate due to a broken skate lace. In the end, Kerrigan clinched silver behind Ukrainian Oksana Baiul; Harding was eighth.
READ MORE: Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan: A Complete Timeline
5. 1998: Scandal of the ice dance judges
Ice dancing received a dose of spy games in Nagano, Japan, when a Canadian judge secretly recorded a conversation with another judge about the selection of winners before the competition.
After his complaints to officials were dismissed, Jean Senft recorded Ukrainian judge Yuri Balkov discussing the placement of the skaters as evidence of his charges. During the call, Balkov said he would vote for the Canadians if Senft votes for a Ukrainian pair.
“Athletes don’t compete on a level playing field,” Senft later told CBC News. “It’s not sport. Someone had to have proof.”
The Canadians did not win a medal, although many believed their performance was at least worthy of a bronze medal. Balkov was suspended for a year and Senft was given a six-month suspension. “For heaven’s sake, if I was one of them, why would I have brought it forward?” she said later Time magazine.
The scandal led Dick Pound, a senior official with the International Olympic Committee, to urge the removal of ice dancing from the Olympics unless judging reforms are made. (Ice dancing was not removed from Olympic competition.)
“Yes [cheating] is happening at the world championships in a small town, nobody notices, “said Pound, according to The New York Times. “But at the Olympics, hundreds of millions of people are watching.”
6. 2002: Dirty (Ice Dancing) in Salt Lake City
The figure skating judges were again at the center of a scandal when another vote-swapping plot among the judges, this time in ice dancing pairs, was uncovered.
The Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze edged Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier for the gold medal. But Marie-Reine Le Gougne, a French judge, came forward, saying she had come under pressure from the French Ice Sports Federation to prioritize the Russians.
“I knew full well who would vote for the Russians and who would vote for the Canadians,” she told Reuters. “I was pretty sure it was me who would award the Olympic title. What I was afraid would happen really happened.
After investigation, the officials award the gold medals to Sale and Pelletier. (The Russians were allowed to keep theirs.) “We hope we get the bronze as well, so we can get the whole collection,” Pelletier joked at a press conference after the decision.
Le Gougne was suspended from judging for three years and banned from the 2006 Winter Games. The scandal led to radical reforms of judges in the sport.
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