Peggy Fleming and the 1968 Winter Olympics

Editor’s Notice: That is a part of The Atlantic’s ongoing collection wanting again at 1968. All previous articles and reader correspondence are collected right here. New materials will likely be added to that web page by way of the top of 2018.

Fifty years in the past this week the 1968 Winter Olympics started in Grenoble, France, the place 37 international locations competed, together with West Germany and East Germany, who had been permitted to enter as separate international locations that yr for the primary time.

The official movie is unbeatable for a visible sense of the video games. The bobsled occasions had been held in darkness, as proven within the video, as a result of the monitor was melting throughout sunlight hours. Jean-Claude Killy gained gold in all three alpine snowboarding occasions.

In hindsight, essentially the most important legacy of that yr often is the introduction of doping checks and intercourse checks for ladies’s occasions, although Norwegians could possibly be forgiven for drawing consideration to their efficiency: 14 medals, six of them gold, besting all different international locations together with the Soviet Union, which got here in second.

Then once more, perhaps the determine skating competitors had essentially the most lasting legacy, no less than right here in the US.

The U.S. gained only one gold medal, in determine skating, and it may hardly have been extra poignant––whereas heading to the 1961 World Championships, your complete U.S. determine skating staff had been killed in a airplane crash. Afterward, a memorial fund was set as much as assist rebuild this system. One beneficiary was a 12-year-old Peggy Fleming, whose coach had died within the airplane crash.

She used the cash to purchase new skates.

Fleming ascended the ranks rapidly to assist this system recuperate. She gained a nationwide championship in 1964, qualifying for that yr’s Olympics, the place she completed sixth. In Grenoble, she would win that gold medal. Right here is one in every of her  performances:

In a retrospective, NBC Sports activities explains that her mom selected the colour of her costume “after studying that monks within the Grenoble area of France made Chartreuse Liqueur at a close-by monastery. Doris believed that the actual inexperienced hue, paying homage to the natural liqueur, would subliminally trigger French audiences to cheer on her daughter, which might in flip increase Fleming’s confidence.”

It wound up on the duvet of Life.

Sports activities Illustrated later summed up the impact of her victory by writing that when she “glided into the adoring embrace of the American public by profitable the gold medal on the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, she launched determine skating’s fashionable period. Fairly and balletic, elegant and trendy, Fleming took a staid sport that was shackled by its inscrutable obligatory figures and arcane scoring system and, with tv as her ally, made it marvelously glamorous. Ever since, definitely to North Individuals, determine skating has been the marquee sport of the Winter Video games and an more and more widespread staple of prime-time tv.”

In case your urge for food is whetted for extra Olympic historical past, don’t miss Alan Taylor’s look again at pictures from the primary 12 Winter Olympic Video games, from 1924 to 1976. And your emails about 1968 are nonetheless inspired