Olympic History: Our Dim Chances at the Olympics in the Alps

Our predictions for the 1964 Winter Games were carefully calculated, and they were wrong.

Speedskaters move on the ice.

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Sports writer Frank Graham, Jr. — son of famed boxing writer Frank Graham — marveled at the apt Alpine terrain of Innsbruck, Austria when he covered the Winter Olympics for the Post in 1964. To bring the Winter Olympics to Innsbruck was “as fitting as it would be to stage the track-and-field games on the plains of Greece.”

A tragic shadow was cast on the Games after the 1961 plane crash in Brussels that killed all 18 athletes of the U.S. figure skating team. New skaters were filling the void, though, and the team ended up with a couple of bronzes.

Graham’s most inaccurate forecast was his claim that we didn’t stand a chance in speed skating: “Speed skating belongs to the Scandinavians and the Russians. Our only triumph since the war was Ken Henry’s gold medal in the 500-meter race at the 1952 Olympics. It is unlikely that the United States will spring a similar surprise this year.” As it turned out, American Terry McDermott won our only gold medal that year in the 500-meter, beating out two Russians and a Norwegian.

McDermott was canonized upon his return to the U.S. with an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on February 9, 1964 — the same night a certain British rock group made their U.S. debut.

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Read “Our Underdogs at Innsbruck” by Frank Graham, Jr. Published February 1, 1964 in the Post.

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