Host City: Squaw Valley, United States
Date Started: February 20, 1960
Date Finished: February 20, 1960
Participants: 103 (73 men and 30 women) from 17 countries
Youngest Participant: Cornelia Harrington (16 years, 262 days)
Oldest Participant: Eevi Huttunen (37 years, 184 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 5 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): Soviet Union (12 medals)
The big news in Olympic speed skating in 1960 was that women’s events were added to the Olympic Program for the first time. Women had competed in a demonstration speed skating program at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, although it was contested in the North American pack-style, somewhat similar to short-track. Women had been competing internationally since 1936, with the first official women’s World Championships held that year. But there were still no European Championships for women and those would not start until 1970. The 1960 women’s Olympic Program consisted of four events – the 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 3,000 metres, and this would become standard for women at major international competitions.
The Squaw Valley Olympic Skating Rink was outdoors, but for the first time in Olympic history, the speed skating events were contested on artificial ice, rather than a natural lake or pond. With the artificial ice, and Squaw Valley’s altitude of 1,890 m above sea level, it quickly became obvious that this was one of the fastest rinks in the world, especially when Finland’s Juhani Järvinen broke the 1500 world record at a pre-Olympic meet in March 1959. This would be highlighted during the 1960 Winter Olympics by Knut Johannessen’s stunning world record of 15:46.6 in the 10,000, breaking the 16-minute barrier, and the previous world record by 46 seconds. Unfortunately, high winds interrupted some of the Olympic races, keeping the times somewhat slower in the men’s 1,500 and 5,000 and the women’s 1,500 races. Sadly, the rink was short-lived as it was disassembled after the Winter Olympics and a parking lot built in the same area.