Reliving Olympic Gold

Anne Heggtveit at Squaw Valley, CA, 1960

Anne Heggtveit at Squaw Valley, CA, 1960

Check out the footage of Anne Heggtveit’s gold winning run at:

http://archives.radio-canada.ca/sports/olympisme/clips/1858/

Ever wonder why there is a run at Camp Fortune named Heggtveit? That’s because Ottawa skier Anne Heggtveit, who raced as a kid at Camp Fortune, won Canada’s first alpine gold medal at the Winter Olympic Games in 1960. Feb. 26 marks the 50th anniversary she stepped onto that Olympic podium.

Heggtveit was no stranger to Camp Fortune. Growing up in Ottawa, Heggtveit was packed in the car for the 15-minute drive to Chelsea’s ski hill from the age of three

“I had my first race at six,” said Heggtveit from her Vermont home Jan. 28.

“I don’t remember how I did, but I must have survived.”

Heggtveit comes from a line of ski racers, from her dad Halvor Heggtveit, who was the Canadian Cross-Country ski champion in 1934 and her two uncles who represented Canada in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics.

At only age eight, her father saw her potential, and did all he could to launch her ski racing career.

“I knew right then that was what I wanted to do,” said the 71-year-old former Olympic champion.

When Heggtveit was just 15, she gained international recognition as the youngest skier to ever win the Holmenkollen Giant Slalom event in Norway. She also took first place in slalom and giant slalom in the U.S. national junior championships the same year.

But shortly afterward, Heggtveit’s ascent was put in jeopardy after she broke her leg . The injury sidelined her for seven months and threatened her career for good.

“My foot was completely paralyzed for three months,” she said.

“I couldn’t move my toes.”

Eventually within several months, she was back on skis with one target in mind: Olympic gold. Heggtveit competed at the 1956 Winter Games in Italy. Although she didn’t perform well at those Games, Heggtveit’s results were starting to improve. By the end of 1956, she was in the top 12 on the world stage.

Then in 1960, her time came at the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, CA. Heggtveit was considered the top Canadian skier that year, but a poor showing at some early Olympic events had the media expecting failure.

“Some of the press kind of wrote me off,” she said, referring to two 12th place finishes in downhill and giant slalom. She still had one more chance to prove them wrong in the Olympic slalom event. And prove them wrong she did.

Heggtveit was the second racer and after seeing a competitor from France fall at around the sixth gate, she began to worry. Although Heggtveit said she took it easy through that gate, her time would say otherwise. By the end of her first run, the Ottawa-born skier was an impressive seven seconds ahead of the pack. She eased up a bit in her second run, but still managed to win the gold by a record margin of 3.3 seconds, something that has never been duplicated since.

Feb. 26, 1960 was the day Anne Heggtveit stepped onto the top of the podium to receive Olympic gold medal. Technically, Heggtveit won two golds at the Games, as she also had the top combined event time, though no medal was handed out.

She feels confident that Canadian skiers have good chances of taking home gold this year in Vancouver, but she feels the team could be even stronger had it not been for injuries that sidelined top Canadian ski hopefuls John Kucera and Kelly Vanderbeek. Heggtveit will sure be tuning into the Games this February.

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