White Claims Gold
South Korea (AP) — In fitting fashion, America’s 100th Winter Olympics gold medal will be draped around the neck of one of its most decorated athletes.
Snowboarding great Shaun White earned the milestone medal for the U.S. on Wednesday by throwing down a spectacular final run in the men’s halfpipe. It’s the third career gold for White and makes him the first American man to win gold at three separate Winter Olympics.
It’s taken the United States 94 years to reach 100 winter golds, and it’s only the second country to get there. It trails Norway, which started Wednesday with 121. Germany is third with 92.
Here’s a look at how America got to the gold century mark:
American speedskater Charley Jewtraw won the first ever Winter Olympic gold medal in 1924 by claiming victory in the 500-meter speedskating event in Chamonix, France. It was America’s only gold at those games, and the hardware is now in the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.
The U.S. won most of its early medals in speedskating and sliding events. Jennison Heaton got medal No. 2 in skeleton in 1928, and Americans didn’t break through in Alpine skiing until Gretchen Fraser won gold in 1948.
Dick Button won America’s first gold in figure skating in 1952, and the U.S. men’s hockey team beat Canada for its first gold in 1960 at Squaw Valley, California.
Speedskaters Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair lead all American winter Olympians with five gold medals each. Heiden won all five of his medals at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, New York, by setting four Olympic records and one world record. Blair got her first gold in 1988, then won two each in 1992 and 1994.
They were just the latest in a long line of American speedskaters with multiple gold medals. The first were Irving Jaffee and Jack Shea, who became the country’s first two-time winter gold medalists in 1932. Up until these games, they still ranked third among American winter athletes with two gold medals each.
White bumped Jaffee, Shea and 10 others on Wednesday by winning his third gold. Two-time champions Jamie Anderson, Shani Davis and Ted Ligety still have events left in Pyeongchang.
The first American woman to win multiple gold medals was Andrea Mead Lawrence, who won slalom and giant slalom in 1952. She carried the Olympic torch for the 1960 opening ceremony in Squaw Valley, passing it to American gold medalist speedskater Ken Henry in a memorable flame lighting.
Snowboarding’s addition to the winter slate in 1998 has helped America pad its total. The U.S. leads all countries with 14 snowboarding gold medals, including all four of its golds at the Pyeongchang Games.
White has won the halfpipe competition three times, and veteran Anderson got her second slopestyle gold earlier this week. The future looks strong, too, with 17-year-olds Red Gerard and Chloe Kim winning gold in slopestyle and halfpipe, respectively, at this year’s games.
BEST AND WORST
The U.S. won 10 gold medals in 2002 at Salt Lake City, its most at a single Olympics. Americans have since won nine golds in 2006, 2010 and 2014.
Despite ranking second overall in golds, the U.S. has only once led the medal table in gold. That was in 1932 at Salt Lake, when Shea and Jaffee paired with the two-man and four-man bobsled teams to tally six gold medals.
The U.S. has taken some downturns, too. The country won just one gold each in 1964 and 1968, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively, in golds. After strong showings at Lake Placid in 1980 and Sarajevo in 1984, the U.S. again finished ninth in gold medals with just two at the 1988 games in Calgary.