Lake Placid hosted an exciting Games, despite a bus strike. It was a repeat of the top 3 countries from the last Games, but excitement was everywhere with an upset in Ice Hockey and Olympic history by individuals and countries.
1,072 (840 men, 232 women) competitors from 37 nations participated in 6 sports and 38 events over a fortnight. The top 3 on the medal tally were the same as the previous Games: USSR won the gold medal tally with 10, Germany (GDR) 2nd with 9, USA 3rd with 6, Austria 4th with 3, Sweden 5th with 3 gold.
China made its debut at these Games.
Hanni Wenzel entered all three women’s alpine skiing events and won three medals for the small country of Liechtenstein (population: 25,000). In the downhill she earned a silver medal. In the giant slalom she won the gold. Two days later she breezed through the slalom, registering the best time in each of the two runs to win her second gold.
Pairs skater Irina Rodnina won her third gold medal for the USSR, this time with Alexander Zaitsev. Matching Rodnina’s marvellous hat-trick was East Germany’s Ulrich Wehling, who won the Nordic combined individual event for the third time.
In the biathlon relay, Aleksandr Tikhonov of the USSR earned his fourth straight gold medal, while his compatriot Nikolay Zimyatov earned three gold medals in cross country skiing.
American speed skater Eric Heiden won all five speed skating events from 500m all the way up to 10,000m, setting an Olympic record in every one. He became the first person in Olympic history to win five gold medals in individual events at the same Games.
A notable highlight of the Games involved the USA men’s ice hockey team which was composed mostly of collegiate players and was not expected to advance beyond group play. They won the gold medal, defeating the heavily favored Soviet team and Finland in the medal round. USA’s team’s 4–3 win over the Soviet team, which came into the 1980 Games and won 4 consecutive Olympic gold medals, captured the hearts of many during a time of Cold War tensions – and became known as the “Miracle on Ice” in the US press.
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