Skeleton 101: Olympic History

Feb 17, 2018; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Lizzy Yarnold (GBR) reacts in ladies skeleton heat 4 during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Olympic Sliding Centre. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports (Usa Today Sports)

    Skeleton returned to the Olympics after a 54-year hiatus in 2002. The sport was previously contested in both 1928 and 1948, the two times the Winter Games were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the accepted birthplace of the sport. The sport was founded there in the late 1890s and began as the sport of cresta.

    When the Olympics came to St. Moritz, skeleton was added to the program and contested on the famed Cresta Run in St. Moritz. Only a men’s event was held. But since the Winter Games never returned to St. Mortiz, skeleton never returned to the Olympic program. American Jennison Heaton won the sport’s inaugural gold medal in 1928 and brother John Heaton took the silver that same year. John Heaton earned another silver 20 years later at the age of 39. Jennison also won silver in men's bobsled in 1928.

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    In late 1980s and 1990s, skeleton experienced a revival and the sport’s international circuit began to thrive. Finally, in 1999, at the urging of the sport’s governing body, the IBSF, skeleton was returned the Olympic program, starting with the 2002 Salt Lake Games. Both men’s and women’s events were added, and women’s bobsled, which is also under the auspices of the IBSF was added at the same time.

At the 2002 Salt Lake Games, the U.S. won half of the medals awarded (three of six) and both gold medals, with Jim Shea taking the men’s title and Tristan Gale winning the women’s competition. Lea Ann Parsley won silver in the women's competition.

In 2006 at the Torino Games, Canadians dominated the podium. Duff Gibson became the sport's oldest gold medalist. Gibson's teammate, Jeff Pain, won silver. Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards won bronze in the women's event.

At the Vancouver Games Jon Montgomery won gold and Canada became the first nation to win consecutive gold medals in skeleton. Amy Williams kept Great Britain's streak of medalists in the women's event going in 2010 by winning gold. Alex Coomber won bronze in 2002 and Shelley Rudman won silver in 2006.

The Sochi Games saw the U.S. return to the podium for the first time since 2002. Matt Antoine claimed bronze in the men's event while Noelle Pikus-Pace won silver.

Lizzy Yarnold won the women's race in 2014. It was the second straight gold for Great Britain and the fourth straight Games with at least one medal on the women's side. Latvia's Martins Dukurs finished runner-up to a host nation athlete for the second straight Olympics in 2014, this time to Russia's Aleksandr Tretiyakov*.

In 2018, Yarnold won the women's gold again, earning the third straight gold for Great Britain and the fifth straight Games with at least one medal on the women's side. Her teammate Laura Deas took the bronze, while Dominic Parsons earned bronze on the men's side. South Korea's Yun Sing-Bin won the men's gold.

*Tretiyakov was stripped of his gold medal on November 22, 2017 for doping violations. On February 1, 2018 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned the sanctions and reinstated his medal, saying, "the evidence collected was found to be insufficient to establish that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was committed by the athletes concerned." We have not yet reinstated the medal in our records, as there may be further changes. Please consult the research room for updated information.