|Date||20 February 2002|
|Location||Utah Olympic Park, Park City, Utah (Bobsleigh/Skeleton/Luge Track)|
|Participants||0 from 0 countries|
|Format||Two runs, total time determined placement.|
Length: 1335 m
Start Altitude: 2233 m
Vertical Drop: 104 m
There wasn’t one single favourite for the first Olympic skeleton title in 54 years. The United States had entered Chris Soule (second in that season’s World Cup tour), Lincoln Dewitt (2001 World Championships bronze medallist) and Jim Shea. Shea was the 1999 World Champion, and also the third Shea to compete in the Winter Games, after his father Jim and grandfather Jack. Shea had delivered the oath at the opening ceremony, and was the emotional favourite, as his grandfather Jack, two-time Olympic speed skating champion in 1932, had been killed by a drunk driver a month before the Olympics. But he was expected to have fierce competition from the European riders. These included 1994 World Champion Gregor Stähli (SUI), the best rider of the 2001/2002 season, 2001 World Champion Martin Rettl (AUT), 1998 World Champion and World Cup winner Willi Schneider (GER), among others.
But Shea won the first run by 0.13 seconds, ahead of Rettl and the competition’s big surprise, the Irish Baron of Wrottesley. A British nobleman living in Ireland, he was not even considered an outsider until the Olympic training runs, which prompted a newspaper article title “O’Cool Runnings”, referring to the Disney movie about the Jamaican bobsledders a decade earlier. But Wrottesley slid back into 4th position after the second and final run, which was slightly influenced by snowfall. Shea almost lost his lead to Rettl, but encouraged by a picture of Jack Shea he hid in his helmet, he kept his lead to become the first American Olympic skeleton champion since 1928.