Sharing the golden spoils
Among the many highlights of PyeongChang 2018 was the heart-stopping conclusion to the two-man bobsleigh, which saw German duo Friedrich and Thorsten Margis and Canada’s Justin Kripps and Alexander Kopacz record identical times over the four runs (3 minutes, 16.86 seconds) to share top spot on the podium. In doing so they became only the ninth joint gold medallists in Olympic Winter Games history. We cast a glance back in time at the other occasions when the gold medals have been shared.
St Moritz 1928: Five men on the podium as Evensen and Thunberg share 500m speed skating title
The first three joint golds in Olympic Winter Games history all took place in the men’s speed skating events. The first came at just the second ever edition, in St Moritz in 1928. Back then, times in speed skating were measured in 10ths of a second, as opposed to the 100ths of a second used to differentiate nowadays, and the discipline was dominated by athletes from Norway and Finland.
It was those two countries that produced the joint winners in the shortest of the sprints, as Bernt Evensen (NOR) and Clas Thunberg (FIN) both clocked 43.4 seconds. In what was possibly the most crowded podium in Olympic history there was also a three-way split for the bronze, with John Farrell of the USA joining another Finn, Jaako Friman, and another Norwegian, Roald Larssen on the lowest step.
Remarkably, all five athletes bettered the standing Olympic record of 44.0 seconds set by the USA’s Charles Jewtraw in the very first Winter Games medal event in Chamonix four years earlier.
Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956: High drama as Mikhaylov and Grishin share gold and a new world record
We have to fast forward 28 years for the next shared gold at the Winter Games, and this time to the men’s 1,500m speed skating event, which took place on 30 January 1956 on the frozen waters of Lake Misurina near the Italian resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo. In the 1950s the balance of power in the discipline had shifted eastwards, with skaters from the USSR who had emerged as the dominant force, and it was two Soviet competitors, Yevgeny Grishin and Yuri Mikhaylov, who shared the gold, setting a new world record in the process.
Toivo Salonen of Finland, who eventually claimed the bronze, had already set a new Olympic record of 2 minutes 09.4 seconds racing in the first pair, before the newly crowned 500m champion Grishin, who had made his Olympic debut in 1952 as a cyclist before switching to speed skating, set out in the eleventh pair. He duly bettered the world record set by compatriot Mikhaylov 10 days earlier in Davos (SUI), with a time of 2 minutes 08.6 seconds. Mikhaylov, going out in the following pair, delivered the perfect riposte, equalling Grishin’s time to reclaim a share of the world record, and the Olympic gold medal.
Squaw Valley 1960: Déjà vu all over again for Grishin on the speed skating oval
The main headline story of the speed skating competition at the 1960 Winter Games was the inclusion for the first time of women’s events. Taking place on the outdoors Squaw Valley Olympic Skating Rink – generally recognised as the fastest skating oval in the world at the time – there was no shortage of thrills, not least in the men’s 1,500m on 26 February, which for the second Games running produced a dead-heat for the gold. And remarkably, Yevgeny Grishin was again one of the athletes involved.
The Soviet skater had already completed the successful defence of his 500m title and was the favourite to defend the 1,500m title he shared with Yuri Mikhaylov. This time around, he had to share top spot on the podium with Norway’s Roald Aas. Both men stopped the clock at 2 minutes 10.4 seconds, over a second faster than Grishin’s compatriot Boris Stenin who took the bronze.
Sapporo 1972: Double winners in luge doubles usher in time for a change
In 1972, for the first and only time in history an Olympic luge event ended in a tie with the doubles producing a dead-heat between Italian duo Paul Hildgartner and Walter Plaikner and East Germany’s Horst Hoernlein and Reinhard Bredow, each of whom stopped the clock at one minute 28.35 seconds over their two runs. It was a rare triumph for the Italians, as East German lugers claimed every other podium place on offer in Sapporo, the last edition of the Winter Games at which times in the sliding events were measured in hundredths of a second. By the time that the next Games came around in Innsbruck four years later, largely to avoid a repeat of the 1972 outcome, the IOC and the International Federation for Luge had agreed to measure timings to the nearest thousandth of a second.
Nagano 1998: Canadians and Italians produce first ever dead heat in bobsleigh
Remarkably, for an event where the difference between first and second place is measured in hundredths of a second, the two-man bob also provided the Winter Games first joint gold, back in 1998 in Nagano.
It was a case of history repeating itself in more ways than one; not least because 20 years earlier, the tie for top spot involved another Canadian duo, though this time they shared the gold with a crew from Italy, Gunther Huber and Antonio Tartaglia, with both clocking an overall time of 3:37.24.
"The similarities between 2018 and 1998 are just uncanny," reflected David MacEachern who formed one half of the Canadian pair that shared gold on the ‘Spiral’ track on Mount Izuno, to the north of Nagano.
For MacEachern that victory in 1998 was a particularly special moment. He had competed in bobsleigh in Albertville in 1992, narrowly missing a bronze in the four-man event, and then failed to make the podium at Lillehammer 1994. He knew Nagano was his last chance of glory. “That day was extremely special for me just because we did what we were supposed to do. One of the hardest things you can do in anything is deliver when you have to deliver.”
MacEachern’s pilot in Nagano was Pierre Lueders. Not only was Lueders the man who taught 2018 gold medallist Kripps how to drive a bobsled, he was in PyeongChang to witness his success, in his current capacity as coach of the Republic of Korea’s bobsleigh team. And to continue this series of remarkable events, one week later, Lueders watched on as he saw his Korean quartet tie for the silver medal.
Just as in PyeongChang, the four-man bob in Nagano also produced a dead heat on the podium, this time for the bronze medal which was shared between the crews from Great Britain and France.
Salt Lake City 2002: Synchronised Scandinavians inseparable at the finish
The first ever shared Olympic title on snow took place in the cross-country skiing in 2002, in the men’s 10km+10km combined pursuit, and it was an all-Norwegian affair. After 20 kilometres of gruelling endurance racing at the Soldier Hollow venue, Thomas Alsgaard and Frode Estil posted identical times, down to one tenth of a second.
Alsgaard started the freestyle leg some 36 seconds behind Estil, but steadily closed the gap in the classic leg, and as they came into the final stretch the pair were neck-and-neck. As they crossed the line, it was impossible to see who had won – and not even the photo finish could separate them. In the end, highly unusually, both men were awarded the same time of 49 minutes 48.9 seconds, and so both won a gold medal.
With no silver medal awarded, Sweden’s Per Elofsson took the bronze a full four seconds behind the Norwegian co-champions. Alsgaard and Estil later combined in the 4 x 10km relay to help Norway win gold, to take their personal tallies to five and two golds respectively.
The 2002 Winter Games also marked the first and only time that a joint gold medal has been awarded in figure skating. It happened, against a backdrop of controversy, in the pairs event, after concerns about the scoring saw Canadian duo Jamie Sale and David Pelletier upgraded from silver to gold, alongside original winners Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia.
Sochi 2014: Maze and Gisin share a special moment on the slopes
After the first Olympic Alpine skiing race to end in a gold-medal dead heat, the spontaneous gesture by Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Swiss Dominique Gisin seemed a delightful conclusion to one of the Games’ most improbable tales.
In the previous 78 years of Alpine skiing at the Olympic Winter Games there had been 134 events; none had ever finished in a tie. So the women’s downhill at Sochi 2014, which saw Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin both stop the clock at 1 minutes 41.57 seconds to share the title, was a truly unique moment in Olympic history; and a truly heart-warming one.
Both women were delighted with the outcome. “Better to be two on top than one to be one-hundredth behind. Two happy faces!” was how Maze put it.
Both had happy stories to tell. Gisin, at 28, had had to overcome nine knee operations to get to the top of the Olympic podium, while 30-year-old Maze arrived in Sochi with many suggesting she had lost her way.
Gisin described the result as “quite crazy” adding of her relationship with her co-winner: “We’re close; even closer now.”
It took a few seconds for both women to realise what had occurred. With 13 skiers still to race, Gisin looked on as the favourites failed to match her time, but then came Maze. As the Swiss glanced up at the big screen, she saw the Slovenian was 0.38 seconds quicker going into the final section.
“I looked away, then I looked up. And then I was like ‘0.00’?” said Gisin. “Zero means we’re good!” Maze agreed. “I was just happy to see the number 1 [by my name]. The rest was not important. It’s even more interesting to tie, something special.”