The 1972 Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, were the first Winter Games to be held in Asia and the first to be held outside Europe or the United States.
1,006 (801 men, 205 women) competitors from 35 nations participated in 6 sports and 35 events over a fortnight. USSR won the gold medal tally with 8, Germany (GDR) 2nd with 4, Switzerland 3rd with 4, Netherlands 4th with 4 also, USA 5th with 3 gold. Spain scored its first Winter gold medal through slalom skier Francisco Fernandez Ochoa. Prior to these games, Japan had never won a gold medal in the Winter Olympics – the host country shone in Sapporo when three Japanese athletes, led by Yukio Kasaya, swept the ski jumping 70m (current K-90 normal hill) event for gold (Kasaya), silver (Akitsugu Konno), and bronze (Seiji Aochi).
Three days before the Games, controversy over amateur status arose when IOC president Avery Brundage threatened to disqualify 40 alpine skiiers who received endorsement and other deals. Austrian skier Karl Schranz, who received over $50,000 per year from ski manufacturers, was banned as an example. In retaliation, the Austrian team pulled out altogether, then re-entered at Schranz’s urging. Meanwhile, Canada refused to send an ice hockey team, maintaining that professional ice hockey players from Communist nations were allowed to compete with no restrictions.
Galina Kulakova of the Soviet Union entered all three cross-country races for women and finished first in all of them. She won the 5km and 10km individual events and anchored the Soviet relay team to victory. Adrianus “Ard” Schenk of the Netherlands convincingly won three golds in speed skating in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m events, setting two new Olympic records. In Alpine skiing, virtual unknown Swiss Marie-Thérès Nadig won both the downhill and the giant slalom events.
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