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Speed Skating at the 1924 Chamonix Winter Games

1924 Winter Games: Next Winter Games

Sports:

Host City: Chamonix, France
Date Started: January 26, 1924
Date Finished: January 27, 1924
Events: 5

Participants: 31 (31 men and 0 women) from 10 countries
Youngest Participant: GBR Cyril Horn (19 years, 111 days)
Oldest Participant: GBR Albert Tebbit (52 years, 31 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): NOR Roald Larsen and FIN Clas Thunberg (5 medals)
Most Medals (Country): FIN Finland (8 medals)

Overview

The first known speed skating results from Chamonix date back to 1908, when the first French Championships were held on a small track (ca. 150 m), with Charles Sabouret winning both events, the 500 and 2000 m. This track remained in use until 1923, when ground was broken for the new 400 m oval as part of the main Stadium of the Games.

Construction ended in November 1923. The Stade Olympique was situated along the Arve river, and would host several sports. A hockey rink was situated in the center of the speed skating rink, which was in turn surrounded by a ski piste. A curling rink lay just outside the main stadium, which had seating capacity for some 5,000 spectators. The first competition contested on the new rink was held two weeks before the Olympic Games. The French Championships were won by Léon Quaglia, who won all four races with a comfortable margin.

The tournament marked the first major encounter between European and North American speed skaters in the 20th century. American speed skater Joe Donoghue had been the first World Champion in 1891, and the World Championships of 1897 had been held in Montréal. Since then, the only American-European confrontation of note had been the 1920 encounter between Oscar Mathisen (NOR) and Bobby MacLean (USA) for the "Professional Championship of the World". Although Mathisen was still one of the strongest skaters by 1924, he could not enter because of his status as a professional. For some time, there was even doubt if Norway would appear at all, the Norwegian Skating Association being skeptical about the Olympics. Being dominant in the sport for decades, the absence of Norway would have meant a major devaluation for the speed skating contests. Fortunately, the Norwegians did eventually elect to compete, although they arrived in France only the day before the Opening Ceremony.

Of all the nations entering in speed skating, three did not compete. Estonia's Christfried Burmeister participated in the opening ceremonies, but was eventually unable to compete due to organizational difficulties. Italy and Switzerland also entered a skater, but their skaters did not turn up in Chamonix. Prior to the Olympics, an Argentine competitor also showed up in the alpine town, training to compete in nearly all of the sports contested, including speed skating. However, José Gamboa had disappeared by the time the Olympic Games got underway.

Medalists