Figure Skating at the 1964 Winter Olympics

Dates 29 January – 6 February 1964
Medal Events 3

The United States had been the dominant nation in singles skating since World War II, winning every men’s Olympic title, and all the women’s titles since 1952. But their great skaters of the 50s, Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss among the women, and Dick Button and the Jenkins brothers, Hayes Alan and David, had all retired. There were a number of younger skaters expected to move up, notably Laurie Owen, who won the 1961 US Ladies’ Championship and the North American title. The 1961 World Championships were scheduled for Praha. The US team was travelling to Praha from New York, with a stopover in Brussels. Tragically, on their approach to Brussels, the Sabena Boeing 707 crashed near the airport, killing all 73 people on the plane, including the entire US figure skating team, coaches, officials, and family members. As a consequence, the World Championships were cancelled. The United States figure skating program had to start from scratch, and they would win only one medal at the 1964 Winter Olympics, even that somewhat of a surprise.

The three standard events – men’s, ladies’, and pairs – were held indoors at the Olympic Ice Stadium. Men and women skated compulsory figures and a free skating program, with the compulsory figures counting towards 60% of the final score, while pairs skated a single free skate program. Overall placements were determined by the majority placement system. This was the last international competition in which pairs skating consisted of only a single program. The 1963 and 1964 European Championships had seen the pairs skate a compulsory and free program, and at the 1964 World Championships, held shortly after the Innsbruck Olympics, this would become the standard. By 1968, the Olympic pairs program would consist of two phases, later to be renamed the short and long program. Controversy enveloped the medal standings in the 1964 pairs program, and it would not be resolved until the 1980s (some participants would say it is still not resolved) – details can be found in the description of the pairs event.

Events

Event Status Date Participants NOCs
Singles, Men Olympic 3 – 6 February 1964 24 11
Singles, Women Olympic 30 January – 2 February 1964 30 14
Pairs, Mixed Olympic 29 January 1964 34 7
88 (41/47) 15 (12/15)

Medals

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Singles, Men Manfred SchnelldorferGER Alain CalmatFRA Scotty AllenUSA
Singles, Women Sjoukje DijkstraNED Regine HeitzerAUT Petra BurkaCAN
Pairs, Mixed Soviet Union 1URS Unified Team of Germany 1
Canada 1
GER
CAN
United States 1USA

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Germany GER 1 1 0 2
Netherlands NED 1 0 0 1
Soviet Union URS 1 0 0 1
Canada CAN 0 1 1 2
Austria AUT 0 1 0 1
France FRA 0 1 0 1
United States USA 0 0 2 2