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Breaking Down Team USA’s Journey To 100 Olympic Winter Games Gold Medals

By Todd Kortemeier | Feb. 13, 2018, 11:10 p.m. (ET)


Twenty-eight years after the United States won the first gold medal at the modern Olympic Games in 1896, the Americans again won the race to the podium at the first-ever Olympic Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France.

The Winter Games have changed a lot since then, but one thing that hasn’t is Team USA’s penchant for bringing home the most-prized piece of hardware in international sports. Shaun White’s in on Wednesday in halfpipe snowboarding was the 100th gold medal in Team USA history, the second-most of any nation. And there are plenty more golden opportunities remaining for the U.S. throughout the rest of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

The U.S. trails only Norway on the all-time gold medal table, and is just ahead of Germany. The Germans could also hit the century mark in PyeongChang. With 87 golds coming in and five more through the Games’ early days, they are close behind.

Team USA’s gold medalists range in age from 15 to 48 and span over a century of American life, from 1883-born J. J. O'Brien to 2000-born Red Gerard.

Charles Jewtraw, a speedskater, made history as the Winter Games’ first gold medalist, following in the footsteps of Bostonian James Connolly, who won gold at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens. From Jewtraw’s 1924 triumph to Eric Heiden’s dominance to Miracles to Flying Tomatoes, here is a look of some of the milestones and amazing facts behind Team USA’s golden century:

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Gold Medal No. 1
Charles Jewtraw, 500-meter (long track speedskating)
Jan. 26, 1924: Chamonix, France
Jewtraw was already a well-known speedskater in the U.S. as a two-time national champion in 1921 and 1923 and holder of the American record for 100-meter time of 9.4 seconds. Jewtraw also posted an eighth-place finish in the 1,500 and a 13th in the 5,000 in Chamonix, then retired from skating to work for a sporting goods company in his native New York. He was Team USA’s only gold medalist in Chamonix, as well as the only one in history to win in January.

Gold Medal No. 5
Irving Jaffee, 5,000-meter (long track speedskating)
Feb. 4, 1932: Lake Placid, New York
Jaffee was the second of two American speedskaters to win gold medals in the first Winter Games on home soil. After Jack Shea won in the 500, Jaffee won in the 5,000. The pair would each go on to win another gold medal in Lake Placid, Shea in the 1,500 on Feb. 5 and Jaffee in the 10,000. All speedskating events in 1932 were in the “packstyle” format, similar to this year’s new mass start event.

Gold Medal No. 10
Ivan Brown and Al Washbond, two-man (bobsled)
Feb. 15, 1936: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
The U.S. successfully defended its two-man bobsled title from 1932 as driver Brown and his partner Washbond edged out the Swiss and a second U.S. sled to take gold. Brown and Washbond posted an insurmountable time on their first run, not winning any of their other runs in Germany. Sleds at this time were wide open and steered with a wheel, instead of the handles of today.

Gold Medal No. 11
Gretchen Fraser, slalom (alpine skiing)
Feb. 5, 1948: St. Moritz, Switzerland
The Games resumed after 12 years following the postponements of the 1940 and 1944 Games due to World War II. Fraser, known for her technical proficiency, became the first U.S. woman to win a gold medal and also the first U.S. skier to do so. Fraser added a silver medal in St. Moritz in women’s combined. She later worked as an officer for the U.S. Ski Association and served as the skiing stand-in for Sonja Henie in two films.

Gold Medal No. 25
Dianne Holum, 1,500-meter (long track speedskating)
Feb. 9, 1972: Sapporo, Japan
Holum was a two-time medalist in 1968 at Grenoble, and she went into the 1972 Sapporo Games as 1971 world champion in the 1,000-meter. She set an Olympic record in winning gold in the 1,500, while also winning silver in the 3,000. At Innsbruck in 1976, she became the first woman to coach a U.S. Olympic speedskating team. Her daughter Kirstin was an Olympic speedskater at the 1998 Nagano Games.

Gold Medal No. 50
Dan Jansen, 1,000-meter (long track speedskating)
Feb. 18, 1994: Lillehammer, Norway
Jansen was a generational sprint speedskater, but this 1,000-meter gold in Lillehammer was his only Olympic medal. After making his Olympic debut in Sarajevo in 1984, Jansen suffered numerous heartbreaking defeats at the Olympic level despite dominating the world cup circuit. But Jansen put all that behind him with a world record-setting performance in Lillehammer, finally getting that elusive medal and taking a memorable victory lap with his daughter, who was named after his late sister Jane.

Gold Medal No. 75
Seth Wescott, snowboardcross (snowboarding)
Feb. 16, 2006: Torino, Italy
Wescott was the 2005 world champion in snowboardcross and one of the top contenders in the event’s debut at the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006. In an exciting race, Wescott grabbed first place and held off Slovakia’s Radoslav Zidek at the line to make history as the first Olympic snowboardcross champion. Wescott defended his title in Vancouver in 2010, and now owns a skiing and snowboarding-themed restaurant in Maine.

Gold Medal 100
Shaun White, halfpipe (snowboarding)
Feb. 14, 2018: PyeongChang, South Korea
White won Team USA’s latest and, to date, most significant gold medal in terms of milestones. But the nation’s 100th winter gold wasn’t his first. He also won men’s halfpipe gold in 2006 and 2010, which marked Team USA’s 71st and 83rd gold medals. White finished fourth at his third Olympic appearance in Sochi and reached redemption in PyeongChang. The 31-year-old is second in terms of U.S. winter athletes with gold medals, behind speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden, who have five apiece.

Youngest Women’s Winter Gold Medalist
Tara Lipinski, figure skating
15 years, 255 days
Olympic Winter Games Nagano 1998

Youngest Men’s Winter Gold Medalist
Billy Fiske, four-man bobsled
16 years, 258 days
Olympic Winter Games Chamonix 1928

Oldest Women’s Winter Gold Medalist
Cathy Turner, 500-meter speedskating
31 years, 320 days
Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994

Oldest Men’s Winter Gold Medalist
J.J. O’Brien, four-man bobsled
48 years, 358 days
Olympic Winter Games Lake Placid 1932

Most Winter Gold Medals By A Woman
Bonnie Blair, speedskating

Most Winter Gold Medals By A Man
Eric Heiden, speedskating

Winter Gold Medals By Sport

Long Track Speedskating – 29
Alpine Skiing – 16
Figure Skating – 15
Snowboarding – 14
Freestyle skiing – 8
Bobsled – 7
Short Track Speedskating – 4
Ice Hockey – 3
Skeleton – 3
Nordic Combined – 1

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.