Speed Skating at the 1948 Winter Olympics

Dates 31 January – 3 February 1948
Medal Events 4

Just twenty years after it hosted its first Games, St. Moritz again hosted the Games. The same rink as in 1928 was used. At an altitude of 1,856 m above sea level, it is the second-highest Olympic rink ever used, only second to that in Squaw Valley in 1960.

Due to the war, speed skating in Europe had come to a complete standstill, with the exception of neutral nations Sweden and Switzerland. This was visible from the results of the Scandinavians, which had not won any Olympic speed skating medal prior to 1948, but won three in St. Moritz. The war had also an influence on the entries, as both war aggressors, Germany and Japan, had been barred from competing in the first post-War Olympics.

Several of the Soviet Union’s top skaters were seen training in St. Moritz, but they did not participate in the Olympics. The Games were still considered too “bourgeois” by the country’s leaders, although negotiations took place in Switzerland in order to appear at the Summer Olympics in London. While this failed to to yield results, the Soviets did decide to participate in the World Championships, held in Helsinki, where Konstantin Kudryavtsev won the 500 m. It would take until 1952 for the Soviet Union to appear at the Summer Olympics, and until 1956 for the winter edition.

Three countries sent speed skaters to the Olympics for the first time. Italy had entered skaters at earlier occasions, but they had never actually competed. This time, four Azzurri participated. Another débutant was Denmark, which had entered Aage Justesen as its sole contestant. Korea had sent three skaters for the nation’s Olympic début. They were not the first Korean speed skaters at the Olympics, as three of their compatriots had competed under the Japanese flag in 1936, when the Korean peninsula was under Japanese rule at that time.

Before the first race, there was a protest lodged against the method of drawing pairs. Led by the Americans, nearly all participating nations joined the protest, save for the Scandinavians and the host nation. The rules stated that results of the races influenced the draw of the remaining races. This made sense for all-round competitions, but since the Olympics consisted of four separate races, the team leaders thought this rule to be illogical. But the organization did not uphold the protest and the competitions were held as planned. The Americans again complained when this rule left all Americans competed in poor conditions during the 10,000 m, but again without effect.


Event Status Date Participants NOCs
500 metres, Men Olympic 31 January 1948 42 15
1,500 metres, Men Olympic 2 February 1948 45 14
5,000 metres, Men Olympic 1 February 1948 40 14
10,000 metres, Men Olympic 3 February 1948 27 11
68 (68/0) 15 (15/0)


Event Gold Silver Bronze
500 metres, Men Finn HelgesenNOR Ken Bartholomew
Thomas Byberg
Bobby Fitzgerald
1,500 metres, Men Sverre FarstadNOR Åke SeyffarthSWE Odd LundbergNOR
5,000 metres, Men Reidar LiaklevNOR Odd LundbergNOR Göthe HedlundSWE
10,000 metres, Men Åke SeyffarthSWE Lassi ParkkinenFIN Pentti LammioFIN

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Norway NOR 3 2 1 6
Sweden SWE 1 1 1 3
United States USA 0 2 0 2
Finland FIN 0 1 1 2