Jenkins keeps it in the family
Four years younger than his brother and fellow figure skater Hayes Alan Jenkins – the Olympic champion at Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956 and a four-time world champion between 1953 and 1956 – David Wilkinson Jenkins picked up the baton after his sibling’s retirement.
A bronze medallist in Cortina at the age of 19, he joined his older brother on the podium at the 1955 and 1956 Worlds, taking the bronze on both occasions. He then succeeded his brother as world champion in Colorado Springs (USA) in 1957, a title he retained in Paris (FRA) the following year and again back in Colorado Springs in 1959.
The younger of the two Jenkins brothers was also something of a pioneer, having been filmed landing a triple axel in 1957, fully 21 years before the jump was successfully performed in competition. Though he stopped short of trying to land the jump in Squaw Valley, his athleticism, power and the sheer range of the jumps and pirouettes that adorned his free programme would ensure that the Olympic title stayed in the Jenkins family.
His achievement was made all the more impressive by the fact that he had also started studying medicine in the lead-up to Squaw Valley. As his older brother remarked years later: “That accomplishment has never gotten the attention it deserved. I could not have competed and gone to law school at the same time, and I couldn’t see how he could do it, but he did.”
Reflecting on his gold medal in later life, David said: “What a mental game and test and challenge it is. I remember the suffocating pressure of it all, and you just somehow have to find a focus. That’s where it’s at. You need to be ready, in the midst of all the hoopla of the Olympics, you have to keep your focus, which is not an easy feat.”
Though trailing to Czechoslovakia’s Karol Divin after the compulsory programme, Jenkins hit back in the free skate two days later. Donning a black suit and bow tie and a white shirt, he put his rivals in the shade with a near-flawless routine. When the judges took to the ice to give their verdict they awarded him a 6, three 5.9s and six 5.8s, his overall points total of 1440.2 securing him the gold with plenty to spare from Divin and Canada’s Donald Jackson.
Jenkins won a fourth USA title that year before briefly turning professional and taking part in an ice show tour. After then hanging up his skates, he resumed his studies and became a doctor.