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Speed Skating at the 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Winter Games:

Men's 500 metres

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Host City: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Venue(s): Rink at Misurina, Misurina
Date Started: January 28, 1956
Date Finished: January 28, 1956

Gold: URS Yevgeny Grishin
Silver: URS Rafael Grach
Bronze: NOR Alv Gjestvang
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The favorite was Yevgeny Grishin. Though Soviet skaters had not competed internationally prior to 1953, Grishin had competed at the Worlds and Europeans in 1954 and 1955, and won all the 500 m distances except for the 1955 Worlds. Only six days before this event was held, Grishin skated in a pre-Olympic meet on the Misurina rink and shattered the world record with 40.2, bettering the previous record by 6/10ths of a second. That mark of 40.8 had been set by Yury Sergeyev, who had recorded it in January 1955 at Medeo, and Sergeyev was in Cortina to compete. The event started at noon and Grishin was in the first pair. When he finished in 40.2, equaling his world record, the gold medal was decided as nobody would get close to him. Sergeyev was in the second pair and finished in 41.1, which would eventually land him in fourth place. The other medals would eventually be won by Soviet skater Rafael Grach in second place, but 6/10ths behind Grishin, and Norwegian Alv Gjestvang, who won bronze. Gjestvang won his medal despite a near fall during the race. Both were quite unknown prior to 1956 outside their own nations, never having competed internationally before. But both would prove to be good sprinters, Grach returning to win a bronze in the 500 at the 1960 Olympics and Gjestvang winning a silver in the event in 1964. Gjestvang would also finish third in the event at the 1956 and 1959 World Championships.

Yevgeny Grishin would win another gold in Cortina two days later in the 1,500 metres. At Squaw Valley in 1960 he would return and repeat his gold medal victories in both events, though strangely, both 1,500 m gold medals were shared. During his career he set seven world records, all at distances 1,500 metres or shorter. His world records of 40.2 set in Misurina would last until 27 January 1963, when he broke them at Medeo, and in the process became the first skater to race 500 metres in under 40 seconds, finishing in 39.6. The next day, he bettered that with 39.5, his final world record.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal T
1 Yevgeny Grishin 24 Soviet Union URS Gold 40.2 =WR
2 Rafael Grach 23 Soviet Union URS Silver 40.8
3 Alv Gjestvang 18 Norway NOR Bronze 41.0
4 Yury Sergeyev 30 Soviet Union URS 41.1
5 Toivo Salonen 22 Finland FIN 41.7
6 Bill Carow 31 United States USA 41.8
7T Colin Hickey 24 Australia AUS 41.9
7T Bengt Malmsten 33 Sweden SWE 41.9
9T Matti Hamberg 23 Finland FIN 42.2
9T Juhani Järvinen 20 Finland FIN 42.2
11T Shinkichi Takemura 24 Japan JPN 42.4
11T Johnny Werket 31 United States USA 42.4
13T Finn Hodt 36 Norway NOR 42.5
13T Yrjö Uimonen 23 Finland FIN 42.5
15 Bertil Eng 26 Sweden SWE 42.6
16 Sigmund Søfteland 32 Norway NOR 42.7
17T Hroar Elvenes 23 Norway NOR 42.8
17T Ken Henry 27 United States USA 42.8
17T Yoshitaki Hori 22 Japan JPN 42.8
17T Bohumil Jauris 22 Czechoslovakia TCH 42.8
21 Johnny Cronshey 29 Great Britain GBR 42.9
22T Taketsugu Asazaka 25 Japan JPN 43.1
22T Guido Citterio 24 Italy ITA 43.1
22T Gerard Maarse 26 Netherlands NED 43.1
25T Gordon Audley 27 Canada CAN 43.2
25T Raymond Gilloz 24 France FRA 43.2
25T Don McDermott 26 United States USA 43.2
28T Jang Yeong 21 South Korea KOR 43.5
28T Vladimír Kolář 28 Czechoslovakia TCH 43.5
30T Jaroslav Doubek 24 Czechoslovakia TCH 43.6
30T Kiyotaka Takabayashi 27 Japan JPN 43.6
32 Franz Offenberger 24 Austria AUT 43.8
33 Guido Caroli 28 Italy ITA 43.9
34T Jo Yun-Sik 24 South Korea KOR 44.0
34T Helmut Kuhnert 19 Germany GER 44.0
36 Ralf Olin 30 Canada CAN 44.1
37T Ernst Biel 21 Austria AUT 44.2
37T Kees Broekman 28 Netherlands NED 44.2
37T Sigvard Ericsson 25 Sweden SWE 44.2
40 Erich Kull 24 Switzerland SUI 44.3
41 Kurt Eminger 20 Austria AUT 44.4
42 Gunnar Ström 25 Sweden SWE 44.7
43 Wim de Graaff 24 Netherlands NED 44.9
44 Alex Connell 25 Great Britain GBR 45.2
45 John Hearn 26 Great Britain GBR 45.9
AC Yury Mikhaylov 25 Soviet Union URS DNF
AC Johnny Sands 22 Canada CAN DNF