From the octogenarian medallist to equine eccentricity, we look back at some of the Games’ strangest tales…
London on ice
The first Olympic Winter Games were staged in Chamonix in France in 1924 but one of its founding sports – figure skating – had actually made its Olympic debut 16 years earlier, at the Summer Games in London. Staged at the Prince’s Skating Club in Knightsbridge, the four events attracted 21 skaters from six nations with Britain’s Madge Syers the star of the show, winning gold in the ladies singles and bronze with husband Edgar in the pairs. Ulrich Salchow who won the men’s event became famous by giving his name to a jump.
The 1928 Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz featured two exhibitions sports, the most bizarre of which was ‘skijoring’ – Alpine athletes on skis being pulled along by a riderless horse on top of a frozen lake. The sport never attained full Winter Games status but did at least give host nation Switzerland a clean sweep of the medals in St. Moritz.
The oldest athlete to receive an Olympic Winter Games medal is American ski jumper Anders Haugen, who was 85 years young when he got his hands on bronze. A scoring error meant Haugen was initially placed fourth in the event at the 1924 Games but the mistake was finally uncovered 50 years later, promoting the octogenarian into third ahead of Norway’s Thorleif Haug and into the record books.
Rough without the smooth
The artificial ice on which curling takes place in the Olympic Winter Games may look perfectly level to the naked eye but the surface is in fact intentionally uneven. The ice is sprinkled with droplets of water to create tiny frozen bumps – known as ‘pebbled ice’ – which increases the stone’s grip and makes for more consistent curling.
One of the most successful athletes in the history of Olympic Winter Games, Norway’s Sonja Henie was just 11-year-old when she competed in Chamonix in the ladies’ singles figures skating. She finished last in France but won successive gold medals at the next three Games before hanging up her skates to pursue a successful Hollywood career in the 1930s and 40s.