Lake Placid seemed to have forgotten its Speed Skating heritage over the past two decades, but the home of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games commits to its roots with a complete overhaul of its famous Olympic Oval. The local Adirondack Speedskating Club hopes to open its new facility in December 2021.
Speed Skating in Lake Placid, New York, goes way back. Charles Jewtraw (USA), who won the very first Winter Olympic Gold Medal at the 1924 Games in France, was a member of the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club and another local hero, Jack Shea won the 500m and 1500m events at the 1932 Olympics, the first to be held in Lake Placid.
The great Eric Heiden
In 1980 Lake Placid hosted the Olympic Games for the second time. On the new refrigerated outdoor Speed Skating oval, US Speedskating celebrated its most prolific Olympics in Speed Skating, with Eric Heiden (USA) winning all five events in the male competition, setting four Olympic records and one world record along the way.
Eric Heiden(USA) at the Olympic Winter Games 1980©AFP
Heiden still is the most successful Olympian from single edition of any Winter Games, single-handedly winning more gold medals than all nations, except for the Soviet Union (10) and East Germany (9). Leah Poulos-Mueller added two silver medals (500m and 1000m) for the home nation, and Eric’s sister Beth Heiden won a bronze in the Ladies 3000m.
Beth and Eric Heiden (USA) 1979©Getty Images
Salt Lake City shift
Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s Speed Skating had its ups and downs in Lake Placid. US Speedskating developed a residential program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Lake Placid, giving a boost to the sport, but eventually funding cuts led to the closure of the resident program. The Olympic training center eventually moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the 2002 Olympic Games.
While Salt Lake City quickly made fame as ‘the fastest ice on earth’, currently holding nine out of ten world records in the classic Speed Skating distances, Lake Placid’s once famous oval seemed to sink into Speed Skating oblivion.
The return of international Speed Skating
But Speed Skating never quite left Lake Placid and Lake Placid never quite forgot about its heritage. The city pays tribute to its Olympic history with an Olympic Museum at the Olympic Center and the local Adirondack Speedskating Club always managed to offer junior level skaters a chance to live and train on its oval.
When the current renovation is finished in December 2021, Lake Placid will be able to host international Speed Skating tournaments again. Adirondack Speedskating Club is preparing for the 2022 Winter World University Championship and the 2023 FISU University Games at the new oval.