How an 86-year-old bricklayer won the U.S.'s only ski jumping medal
Picture an Olympian standing atop the podium overwhelmed with pride as their national anthem plays in the background and a medal is placed around their neck. The pressure of a lifetime of training is lifted off their shoulders. The goal that athlete has dedicated their life to, now achieved.
Bet you didn’t picture an 86-year-old.
But that’s what Team USA’s Anders Haugen accomplished … sort of.
Haugen won the U.S.’s only Olympic ski jumping medal, but by no means was it conventional.
A part-time bricklayer, Haugen led the U.S. ski jumping team at the first modern Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924.
Haugen placed fourth in the event, just behind Norway’s Thorleif Haug, who had already won three gold medals at the games. No disputes, no controversy, no questions.
It wasn’t until 1974 – 50 years later – that the history-altering mistake was found.
Norway – which also won the gold and silver in the event – held a 50th anniversary celebration. While glossing over the scores, skiing historian Jacob Vaage noticed a mathematical error.
Haugen’s score was correctly totaled to 17.916 points.
The catch? Haug's scores had incorrectly been added up to a flat 18.000, rather than the correct 17.821 points. Stay in school, kids.
That put Haugen .095 points ahead of Haug, overtaking him for the bronze medal … just 50 short years after the event.
The IOC was notified and so, at a special ceremony in Oslo, Norway in 1974, Haugen was finally awarded his bronze medal by Haug's daughter.
They say you can’t rewrite history, but Anders Haugen would tell you otherwise.