Hall of Krame: Dartmouth’s History at the Winter Olympics
With the 2022 Winter Olympics underway, Justin Kramer looks at the history of Dartmouth student-athletes and alumni competing at the event.
Dartmouth student-athletes and alumni have excelled at the Winter Olympics for nearly a century, as at least one Olympian with Dartmouth ties has represented the College every year since 1924.
Ever since a pair of ’26ers (that’s the Class of 1926, mind you) and a ’34 took home Dartmouth’s first Winter medals in 1932 in bobsled, hockey and speed skating, respectively, Dartmouth Winter Olympic athletes have reached 13 total gold medals, nine silvers and five bronzes, with Summer athletes earning the College 22 more medals. According to data from the Dartmouth Athletics Department website, 111 different Dartmouth athletes have competed in the Winter Olympics, with 168 total Olympic appearances because some athletes competed in multiple Olympics.
Notably, the number of Winter athletes with Dartmouth ties at each Olympics has generally increased over the past half century. Dartmouth reached a relative peak in 1940 and 1948 with nine athletes, but sent no more than five from 1960 through 1980, getting as low as two representatives in 1968. Unsurprisingly, the 1940 peak was comprised of eight skiers and just one other athlete. After World War II, none of them returned to compete, but a whopping eight men’s hockey players joined the U.S. roster in 1948.
Since 1980, though, Dartmouth representation at the Winter Olympic Games has skyrocketed, reaching double digits by 1992, 13 in 2006 and 15 in 2018 before falling back to eight this year. The College sent at least 10 athletes every Winter Olympics from 2006 through 2018.
Another way to visualize this pattern is to look at the cumulative number of Dartmouth Winter Olympic athletes over time. The cumulative number of athletes increased rapidly early on, before slowing down from about 1956 until 1980. Since then, the “slope” of the graph has become much steeper, with the total number of Dartmouth Winter Olympic athletes soaring since 2002.
What’s responsible for the massive growth in Dartmouth Winter Olympic athletes? The biggest factor is the emergence of women’s skiing, as the Big Green didn’t send its first women’s skier until 1988. Over the past 30 years alone, 17 more skiers with Dartmouth ties competed in the Olympics, totaling 30 additional Olympic appearances.
As one would expect, skiing is Dartmouth’s most represented sport by far at the Olympics, but the second-most represented sport is not even a Winter sport: Men’s track and field has sent 22 athletes to the Summer Olympics for 31 total Olympic appearances. Men’s and women’s hockey, biathlon, men’s and women’s rowing and kayaking are among the other sports that have more frequently featured Dartmouth student-athletes and alumni. Dartmouth has also had at least one athlete compete in bobsled, luge and speed skating.
Not all of these cumulative totals are created equal, however. Although Dartmouth has seen 20 men’s hockey student-athletes and alumni participate in the Olympics, they have had just two players after the 1956 Olympics. Meanwhile, Big Green women’s hockey players and alumni only began competing in the Olympics for the U.S. and Canada in 1998, when women’s hockey became an official sport in the Nagano, Japan Olympics. Notably, the first two Dartmouth men’s hockey Olympians earned silver medals in the 1920 Summer Olympics, as hockey debuted as a summer sport at the Antwerp, Belgium Games.
While Dartmouth’s Olympic representatives have overwhelmingly competed for the U.S., about 18% competed for other nations between both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Nine Dartmouth student-athletes and alumni have represented Canada, with most playing hockey, including Laura Stacey ’16, who took home a silver medal with Canada in 2018 and is playing again in Beijing this year. Great Britain, Iceland, New Zealand and Puerto Rico are among the other countries for whom multiple Dartmouth Olympic athletes have competed, along with 12 more countries that have rostered a single Dartmouth Olympian.
With eight athletes representing Canada, Norway and the U.S. at the Olympic games this year, Dartmouth alumni and current student-athletes will look to add to the Big Green medal count and build upon Dartmouth’s long history of Winter Olympic participation and success.