IOC finds fraud, awards second gold in Winter Olympics skating event

On February 15, 2002, the International Olympic Committee announces it has sufficient evidence of fraud by a French judge and awards a second gold medal in pairs figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The decision comes after days of rumors and behind-the-scenes investigations.

READ MORE: Winter Olympics History

As part of a vote-trading scheme, a French judge allegedly succumbed to pressure from her federation to award a gold medal score to Russian pair Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, leaving Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier with the silver.

Four days earlier, the Canadians skated a nearly flawless routine that received loud cheers from the crowd at the Salt Lake Center. In the Russians’ final skate, Sikharulidze bungled the landing on a jump. But the pair was awarded the gold in a 5-4 vote that was booed loudly. 

“We took a position that was one of justice and fairness for the athletes,” said IOC president Jacques Rogge about the awarding of a second gold.

Joked Pelletier at a news conference the following day: “We do hope we get the bronze, too, so we can get the entire collection.”

The International Skating Federation suspended the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne. Valentin Piseyev, the president of the Federation of Russian Figure Skating, said the awarding of a second gold was dictated by pressure from North American media.

The scandal led to a revised judging system aimed to better represent performances and to safeguard against the manipulation of scores.

In 2012, Le Gougne insisted she was a scapegoat. “My life was devastated,” she told Reuters. 


First Winter Olympics

Month Day
January 25

On January 25, 1924, the first Winter Olympics take off in style at Chamonix in the French Alps. Spectators were thrilled by the ski jump and bobsled as well as 12 other events involving a total of six sports. The “International Winter Sports Week,” as it was known, was a great success, and in 1928 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially designated the Winter Games, staged in St. Moritz, Switzerland, as the second Winter Olympics.

Five years after the birth of the modern Olympics in 1896, the first organized international competition involving winter sports was staged in Sweden. Called the Nordic Games, only Scandinavian countries competed. Like the Olympics, it was staged thereon every four years but always in Sweden. In 1908, figure skating made its way into the Summer Olympics in London, though it was not actually held until October, some three months after the other events were over.

In 1911, the IOC proposed the staging of a separate winter competition for the 1912 Stockholm Games, but Sweden, wanting to protect the popularity of the Nordic Games, declined. Germany planned a Winter Olympics to precede the 1916 Berlin Summer Games, but World War I forced the cancellation of both. At the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, ice hockey joined figure skating as an official Olympic event, and Canada took home the first of many hockey gold medals. Soon after, an agreement was reached with Scandinavians to stage the IOC-sanctioned International Winter Sports Week. It was so popular among the 16 participating nations that, in 1925, the IOC formally created the Winter Olympics, retroactively making Chamonix the first.

In Chamonix, Scandinavians dominated the speed rinks and slopes, and Norway won the unofficial team competition with 17 medals. The United States came in third, winning its only gold medal with Charles Jewtraw’s victory in the 500-meter speed-skating event. Canada won another hockey gold, scoring 110 goals and allowing just three goals in five games. Of the nearly 300 athletes, only 13 were women, and they only competed in the figure-skating events. Austrian Helene Engelmann won the pairs competition with Alfred Berger, and Austrian Herma Planck Szabo won the women’s singles. The Olympics offered a particular boost to skiing, a sport that would make enormous strides within the next decade. At Chamonix, Norway won all but one of the nine skiing medals.


Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen falls after sister dies

Month Day
February 14

On February 14, 1988, U.S. speed skater Dan Jansen, a favorite to win the gold medal in the 500-meter race at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, falls during competition, only hours after learning his sister had died of cancer. Jansen suffered disappointment after disappointment in the Olympics, earning him a reputation as “the heartbreak kid,” before he finally captured an Olympic gold medal in 1994.

Daniel Erwin Jansen was born June 17, 1965, in West Allis, Wisconsin. He put on his first pair of skates at age four and soon was excelling at competitive speed skating. At his first Olympics, in 1984 in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, he finished 16th in the 500 meters but came within a fraction of a second of taking home the bronze medal in the 1000 meters. Four years later, at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Canada, Jansen, who had won the World Sprint Championship a week earlier, was a gold-medal favorite in the 500 meters. However, on February 14, the day of the race, he learned that his 27-year-old sister Jane, who had been instrumental in his speed skating career, had died of leukemia. Jansen’s family encouraged him to continue with his plan to compete later that day. However, seconds into the race, Jansen slipped and fell. Several days later, he competed in the 1000-meter race and after a record-breaking start, fell again. At the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, Jansen again went home disappointed, finishing fourth in the 500 meters and 26th in the 1000 meters. Despite his Olympic heartbreak, he remained a top competitor and was the first man to break 36 seconds in the 500 meters. In 1994, he won a second World Sprint Championship. At that year’s Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, though, Jansen finished a disappointing eighth in the 500 meters and thought his chances of ever winning an Olympic medal were over. However, on February 18, Jansen finished the 1000 meters 1:12:43, good for the gold medal and the world record. In what became a memorable Olympic moment, Jansen took a victory lap around the ice carrying his young daughter Jane, named for his late sister.

Later that year, Jansen announced his retirement from competitive speed skating. He went on to establish the Dan Jansen Foundation, which funds leukemia research and other activities, and currently works as a sports commentator and motivational speaker.