|Date||16 February 1952 — 15:00|
|Location||Bislett Stadion, Oslo|
|Participants||41 from 14 countries|
|Olympic Record||43.1 / Finn Helgesen NOR / 31 January 1948|
The 500 m World Record (41,8) had been in the hands of Hans Engnestangen since 1938, but in early January 1952, it was first beaten by Yury Sergeyev. The Soviet skater improved it to 41,2 two weeks later at the National Championships, with Yevgeny Grishin also going below Engnestangen’s old mark. But with the Soviet Union absent from Oslo, the title fight would again be between Norway and the United States. A week before the Olympics, an international competition at Hamar saw Norway’s Sigmund Søfteland winning the 500 m, narrowly ahead of defending champion Finn Helgesen and Ken Henry, winner of the US Olympic Trials.
The first Norwegian-American fight took place in the third race between Arne Johansen and Don McDermott. In a close race, the American won by virtue of his fast final metres, beating his opponent 43,9 to 44,0. These times went unbeaten for several pairs, although Hroar Elvenes came close with 44,1. Heat 12 was another close affair, with Gordon Audley (Canada) facing the 1948 Olympic Champion, Helgesen. Both skaters were timed with 44,0, but Audley had a small advantage over the Norwegian, putting him in a tie for second, and Helgesen out of medal contention.
Ken Henry, barely recovered from the flu, clearly distinguished himself from the rest of the field in pair 14. His final time of 43,2 was well ahead of the others, and just a tenth outside Helgesen’s Olympic Record. This time stood until the end of the competition, as favourites Søfteland and Fitzgerald (medalist in 1948) disappointed.
As one of Norway’s top sprinters, Finn Hodt had been selected for the Norwegian 500 m squad. But his selection caused a big commotion in Norway because of Hodt’s past. A member of the Norway’s fascist Nasjonal Samling, he had broken the sports embargo by skating during the German occupation. He had also served on the Eastern front for two years. He was imprisoned for several years as a collaborator, and returned to skating in 1951. But a public outcry after his selection prevented him from competing in the Oslo Games, as the Norwegian Olympic Committee blocked his participation. Hodt would make the team in 1956, and would later become a very successful skating coach.
|=19||5I||Cockie van der Elst||NED||45.3||–|
|=19||11O||Wim van der Voort||NED||45.3||–|