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Gibson beats Pain for skeleton gold

16 Feb 2006
Turin 2006, Skeleton, Olympic News, Canada

Duff Gibson is an unlikely, but wholly worthy, Olympic hero. A firefighter from Calgary,who works at the city's airport, he was 39 years old when he competed at the these Games, an age when most athletes have decided to end their careers. Instead, Gibson's career was about to reach his pinnacle.

He came from a family of Olympians, with an uncle who had competed for Canada in the rowing competition of 1984. Gibson’s father, Andy, had been chosen to take part in the judo competition in 1968 before the sport was dropped from the programme for the Mexico City Games.

Gibson had played plenty of sports. There was ice hockey, then there was wrestling and then rowing. Only when he was well into his 30s did Gibson eschew the summer sports in favour of something icier and more extreme. He tried bobsleigh and luge and then, at the age of 33, he took up skeleton and decided to compete professionally.

Two years later, he placed tenth in the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, a remarkable rise to the top end of the sport, but Gibson was not satisfied. A world championship gold medal came in 2004, as well as a bronze in 2005. He may have been nearly 40 years old, but Gibson was clearly one of the form athletes.

His nearest challenger was expected to be his Canadian team-mate Jeff Pain and so it proved. Pain was himself 35 years old, but the two men brought experience and momentum with them, and dominated the competition.

Gibson produced the fastest time on the first run with Pain second. The pattern was repeated on the second run, ensuring gold for Gibson and silver for his team-mate.

Gibson was 39 years and 190 days old and now he was a champion. He became the oldest individual gold medallist in the history of the Olympic Winter Games, as well as Canada's oldest Winter Olympic gold medallist in any sport. And with Pain aged 35 and bronze medallist Gregor Stähli 37, the combined age of the three medallists was 111.

Gibson retired from the sport straight after the Games. He dedicated his victory to the memory of his father, Andy, who had died of cancer two months earlier. 

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