With the weather changing, and the first snows falling in many parts of the country, our attentions begin to turn to winter sports, particularly with the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang just two ski seasons away. Ski jackets are being dragged out of storage, ice skates are being dusted off, and Americans all over the country are preparing for a wonderful winter of sport. Whilst many of our Summer games champions will be enjoying a well-earned rest before they resume training for the 2020 games, a very few will begin training for their alternative chance at Olympic glory. According to renowned Olympic historian, Bill Mallon, throughout the modern history of the games a total of 128 athletes have competed in both Winter and Summer sports.
American Sporting Icons
This year two of those who are serving double duty in both games are American track and field athletes Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams. Lolo Jones began her Olympic career as a 100 meter hurdler, finishing seventh in the hurdles during the Beijing 2008 games, and fourth during the London 2012 games. It was after London that Lolo made the decision to switch her sporting attention to bobsledding: we can expect to see her first Olympic race in the sport in PyeongChang during the 2018 games. Inspired by her former teammate Lolo Jones, Lauryn Williams has also joined the American Olympic bobsled team. Williams began her career as a sprinter, winning a silver medal for the women’s 100 meter sprint during the Athens 2004 games. She then took home a gold medal during the London 2012 games as part of the 4 x 100 meter relay team. Williams’ transition to the winter Olympics has happened incredibly quickly, and just six months after switching to the sport she was announced as a push athlete for the team. In 2014 Williams won a silver medal during the Socchi winter Olympics, as part of the two woman bobsleigh team, meaning that she has achieved the incredible feat of winning a silver Olympic medal in both the summer and winter games: She will be going for gold in 2018.
The Legend of Eddie Egan
There is a precedent of American athletes who serve double duty by competing in both the summer and winter Olympic Games, and it would be impossible to talk about the phenomenon without mentioning Eddie Egan, who holds the record for being the only person to have ever won gold medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympic games. Eddie won a gold medal for light heavyweight boxing during the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp. He then went on to win a second gold medal during the 1932 Winter Olympic games in Lake Placid as part of the four man bobsled team, despite the fact that until he arrived in Lake Placid that year, he had never actually been inside a bobsled before. Eddie Egan is often referred to as the greatest Olympian you have never heard of. There are huge similarities between the careers of Egan and Lauryn Williams, which many commentators are hoping could inspire the talented athlete to more double Olympic success.
Our diverse natural climate lends itself perfectly to athletes attempting to compete in both games: we have regions of the country where the winters are incredibly cold with plenty of powder, and warm dry summers that are ideal for track and field training. Athletes competing for America in both the summer and the winter games are well equipped and well-trained: the American Olympic Committee employs over 350 people across the country to ensure that our nation’s athletes have everything they need to go for goal. Financial support, in conjunction with great talent, is an incredibly important aspect of Olympic success and it is no coincidence that the countries who invest the most in nurturing their teams have the most success on the medal tables. Here’s hoping we are nurturing the talent that will challenge Edie Egan’s incredible record in the country right now.
This is an article by Helen Cairns.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia Commons