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Bobsleigh at the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Games

1932 Winter Games: Previous Winter Games ▪ Next Winter Games

Sports:

Host City: Lake Placid, United States
Date Started: February 8, 1932
Date Finished: February 15, 1932
Events: 2

Participants: 41 (41 men and 0 women) from 8 countries
Youngest Participant: SUI Reto Capadrutt (19 years, 341 days)
Oldest Participant: SUI Oscar Geier (49 years, 178 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 18 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): USA United States (4 medals)

Overview

The IOC selected Lake Placid to host the 1932 Winter Olympics on 10 April 1929 at their Session in Lausanne, Switzerland. At the time, no bob run existed in the United States. The only run in North America was in Murray Bay, Québec, where a temporary run was constructed on the Murray Bay golf course each winter but it hardly compared to the runs in Europe. On 15 May 1929, Lake Placid Organizing Committee President Godfrey Dewery cabled Stanislaus Zentzytzki, the German bobsled designer, asking for his assistance to build a run at Lake Placid. He arrived at Lake Placid in the summer of 1929, amidst controversy over the site of the run.

The controversy dealt with Article 14 of the New York State Constitution, known as the Forever Wild Amendment which protected state lands near Lake Placid, for which the bob run was tentatively planned. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks argued against placing the run on protected lands and the case went to the New York State Courts. Dewey asked Zentzytzki to look at five possible sites, and design bob runs for them all, in case the court ruling went against Lake Placid. So that the North American sledders could begin practicing, a hastily built temporary run was built on the Lake Placid Club grounds at the Intervale Ski Jump site.

On 18 March 1930, the New York Court of Appeals ruled against the Lake Placid Organizing Committee, noting, “If clearing of timber from lands owned by the state in the forest preserve is allowed for such a purpose then it is equally sanctioned for the construction of public automobile race tracks, toboggan slides, golf courses, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and airplane landing fields, all of which are out of harmony with the forest lands in their wild state.” The start of the Lake Placid Olympics was only 23 months away.

Dewey cabled Zentzytzki to urgently return to Lake Placid and they scouted several of the sites, but also looked at a new one, on a mountain with no name, but which they called “South Meadows Mountain.” It was owned by the Lake Placid Club, of which Dewey was also President, and he had no objection to the run being built there. Zentzytzki and Dewey chose this site, but the mountain had to be named. Roosevelt Mountain, after New York Governor, and later President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was considered but felt to be rather gratuitous. Eventually they chose Mt. Van Hoevenberg after New York doctor, Henry Van Hoevenberg, who often vacationed near Lake Placid, and in 1890 helped conceive the idea of building many of the trails in the Northern Adirondack regions.

After approval of funding, construction on the Mt. Van Hoevenberg bob run began on 4 August 1930. It was completed, and opened, on Christmas Day, 1930, only 148 days later. Designed to rival the European bob tracks in speed, the track indeed proved very fast, as a team from nearby Saranac Lake timed a run with an average of 76 km/h, a world record at the time.

The introduction of World Championships in 1930 had made international competition more frequent, and the programme had also been changed. The four/five man-event had been limited to four sledders, and a new event, the two-man bob, had also been introduced. It would remain the only change in the bobsleigh programme for seventy years.

With 14,000 spectators at the first day of the four-man event, bobsleigh was the most popular event at the 1932 Winter Games.

Medalists