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Heaton wins silver again as skeleton returns to the programme

This was the only the second time that skeleton had been included in the Olympic programme, and you had to go back two decades to find the first incidence. The reason was that the Cresta Run in St Moritz was considered the sport's home, so when the Winter Games had last visited St Moritz, in 1928, skeleton had been included. After that, it was taken away again.


And now that the Games were back in St Moritz, so skeleton emerged once more. A great deal had changed over the intervening twenty years, but one thing was the same – America had once again selected a man called John Heaton, who won a silver medal in 1928.

Heaton had won an array of cups and trophies racing down the Cresta Run in the late 1920s and early 1930s, including two victories in the prestigious Grand National in 1927 and 1929. In between had come his Olympic silver, achieved despite a recently broken wrist and the pain of being beaten by his brother Jennison, who took gold.

Four years after that, he had a go at bobsleigh and piloted the USA-2 two-man sled. He and brakeman Bob Minton finished a long way behind both USA-1 and Switzerland-2, but managed to keep ahead of the rest and took an impressive bronze.

In 1948, he returned to the Olympic stage, and also returned to skeleton. There was no brother to contend with, nor any injuries, but there were new contenders to come up against. The Italian Nino Bibbia emerged at these Games as the new master of the Cresta Run while Great Britain's John Crammond was expected to do well.

There were also other American sliders, including army sergeant William Martin, at 19 by far the youngest athlete in the field. The question was whether Heaton still had the strength, fitness and resolve to win a medal. And the answer was – yes.

His first and last runs saw him go only fifth fastest. In between were four other runs were Heaton was either first or second on the time-sheets a display of consistency that only Bibbia could match. Twenty years after his first skeleton silver, Heaton repeated the trick with another silver medal.

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