COMMENTARY | When it comes to speed skating, Americans are among the best. They have amassed one of the best track records when it comes to Winter Olympic Medals, winning the most gold and placing third overall in the total medal count.
But who has done better: American men or women? Is it Bonnie Blair, Sheila Young and other females, or have Apolo Anton Ohno and Eric Heiden and the speedskating males bested them in the medal haul for Team USA?
Of course, the men have an advantage, as speedskating goes back to the 1924 Winter Olympics, while women did not compete in the event until 1960. So I start the battle of the sexes with the Squaw Valley Olympics in California, and add events in short track as the Olympics do. For relays, I count the win as a single gold, silver or bronze, even if several skaters share the victory stand, with data from the International Skating Union and International Olympic Committee.
From 1960 to 2010 (in Vancouver, Canada), American men have captured 16 gold medals in the events, while American women have netted 11 gold medals. It’s a little closer in the silver category, as American men have one more medal in this category than the American women do. Both are tied for the same number of bronze medals, with 11 each.
This gives American males a slight overall advantage against their female counterparts, with 39 medals in speedskating, compared to 34 for the women. Of course, the women could point out there’s an extra longer event for guys (like the 10,000 meters), but that would still give America the edge.
Regardless, there are many great American speedskating stories, like Heiden’s gold medal haul from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, or Bonnie Blair’s triumphs in three Olympics (1988-1994), or comeback stories like Dan Jansen and Cathy Turner, international stardom, like Ohno on the short track. We’ll see if the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia enables the women to catch up with the men in medals.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.