Host City: Innsbruck, Austria
Date Started: January 29, 1964
Date Finished: February 6, 1964
Participants: 88 (41 men and 47 women) from 15 countries
Youngest Participant: Ondrej Nepela (13 years, 12 days)
Oldest Participant: Oleg Protopopov (31 years, 197 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 14 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): 3 countries with 2 medals
The United States had been the dominant nation in singles skating since World War II, winning every men’s Olympic title, and all the women’s titles since 1952. But their great skaters of the 50s, Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss among the women, and Dick Button and the Jenkins brothers, Hayes Alan and David, had all retired. There were a number of younger skaters expected to move up, notably Laurie Owen, who won the 1961 US Ladies’ Championship and the North American title. The 1961 World Championships were scheduled for Praha. The US team was travelling to Praha from New York, with a stopover in Brussels. Tragically, on their approach to Brussels, the Sabena Boeing 707 crashed near the airport, killing all 73 people on the plane, including the entire US figure skating team, coaches, officials, and family members. As a consequence, the World Championships were cancelled. The United States figure skating program had to start from scratch, and they would win only one medal at the 1964 Winter Olympics, even that somewhat of a surprise.
The three standard events – men’s, ladies’, and pairs – were held indoors at the Olympic Ice Stadium. Men and women skated compulsory figures and a free skating program, with the compulsory figures counting towards 60% of the final score, while pairs skated a single free skate program. Overall placements were determined by the majority placement system. This was the last international competition in which pairs skating consisted of only a single program. The 1963 and 1964 European Championships had seen the pairs skate a compulsory and free program, and at the 1964 World Championships, held shortly after the Innsbruck Olympics, this would become the standard. By 1968, the Olympic pairs program would consist of two phases, later to be renamed the short and long program. Controversy enveloped the medal standings in the 1964 pairs program, and it would not be resolved until the 1980s (some participants would say it is still not resolved) – details can be found in the description of the pairs event.