Much like Guinness World Records, one of the great things about the Olympics is that it's constantly evolving and pushing the limits of man, all the while echoing a long and storied past full of unique experiences and indelible memories.
And so, with the Sochi Winter Olympics (technically the XXII Olympic Winter Games) just a week away, we tapped into the GWR braintrust to get ready for the future by reflecting on the past.
One of the positions at Guinness World Records is that of sports records manager. This is the person tasked with judging and verifying all sports-related achievements, covering everything from ice skating and luge to football and hurling. They know their Olympics.
And so we gathered the past four GWR sports managers to ask them one question ahead of Sochi: what's your favorite Winter Olympics memory?
Tom Ibison, current sports records manager
Home nation: Great Britain
Current location: London
Mine has to be the GB curling team from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Britain don’t always have a lot to cheer about during the Winter Olympics, but the whole country got behind the plucky team of Scots led by skipper Rhona Martin. The team of Martin, Debbie Knox, Fiona MacDonald and Janice Rankin won Great Britain's first gold medal at a Winter Olympics in any sport in almost 20 years.
The entire nation got “swept” up in the curling excitement as the team secured an upset victory over Switzerland with the very last stone of the final. I’ve never seen so much love for what to most people was an unknown sport, and I’m hoping a similar story will emerge for Team GB at the Sochi games.
Fun record fact: The longest marathon playing curling is 73 hr 6 min 52 sec by a group of 10 players from the Dumfries Ice Bowl in Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway, UK from 27 February to 2 March 2013.
Ralph Hannah, emeritus
Home nation: Great Britain
Current location: Asunción, Paraguay
Well, my first Winter Olympic memory is from Lillehammer 1994, but even at that young age (9 years old) I was fascinated by records (seriously!). So I used to love the bobsleigh and luge events. As each person did a run, you could see their lap time and see how close they were to breaking a record or just becoming number one. Obviously, the fact they travel at break-neck speed also added to the spectacle!
Unfortunately, Britain were no world-beaters at luge back then. In the men’s event, we finished 26th, just ahead of Liechtenstein and a few places behind the Virgin Islands (which I just confirmed on Wikipedia). Still to this day, both luge and bosleigh remain some of my favourite winter sports and I’ll be hoping that Britain can pull off a miracle in the bobsleigh in Sochi!
P.S. I am too young for Torvill and Dean unfortunately!
Fun record fact: At the time of their triumph at Sarajevo 1984, Torvill and Dean's gold medal-winning performance was the highest score ever received for a pairs performance in ice dancing.
Carlos Martinez, emeritus
Home nation: Spain
Current location: Tokyo
It was 1990-91. Spain was crazy about Olympics, and sports in general. At that time, we were a losing nation in everything (except for the football European Cup titles with Real Madrid), but the Barcelona ’92 Olympic Games were right around the corner and the hopes that we would become a winning powerhouse put the entire country behind anything sports-related.
The 1992 Olympic year started in February, with the Winter Olympics in Albertville. Until then, the staggering total amount of medals in the history of Spain at the Winter Olympics was...1! But it didn’t matter! We were sending the little sister of the only other Olympic medalist, from 20 years before, to participate in slalom skiing.
Everybody watched the competition. I mean, that was the only sport that really mattered, right? Winter Olympics = Skiing! Female skiing!! On Spanish TV!!! We were seeing - similarly to what Ralph described - how the records, or even the best times that day, were broken by just hundredths of seconds. That was the difference between glory and not even appearing in the top 10. And while the Spanish Empire (ahem) was holding its very Catholic breath, Blanca Fernandez Ochoa, our heroine, managed to descend a French mountain to...a bronze medal!
That was the second and, so far, the last medal in Spanish Winter Olympics history. And that is as much as any Spaniard knows about the Winter Olympics, ski, or snow in general!
Fun record fact: The most combined Winter Olympics medals won by siblings is six, by speed skaters Eric and Beth Heiden. Eric won five golds and Beth one bronze.
Home nation: United States
Current location: New York City
I'm admittedly more of a Summer Olympics guy, but the U.S. fielding a dominant team at both Summer and Winter Games means I'm always paying attention to the competition (did you know America is the only country to win at least one gold medal at every Winter Olympics? U-S-A!).
But my favorite Winter Games memory doesn't come from Tara Lipinski or Apolo Ohno - even if I grew a soul patch goatee to match him in 2002 - and I wasn't born yet for the Miracle on Ice. Mine comes from...Canada?
Yes, our neighbors to the north and from the very last Winter Olympics, Vancouver 2010. The gold medal men's ice hockey game pitted Canada against the U.S. and, when the game started, I was of course cheering for the red, white, and blue to steal gold from the, well, just red and white on their home ice. And as Canada led, 2-1, with 25 seconds left, I'd begrudgingly come to accept my nation's fate. Then Zach Parise did this and my patriotism exploded right back up.
But after Sidney Crosby scored in overtime; and after the entire arena lost their collective mind; and once I saw all the reactions from around Canada at their first hockey gold medal on home turf (see above), there was no way I could be anything but ecstatic at how it turned out for the Canadians. Watch just the first minute alone of the video above. If you don't get goosebumps, you're probably dead. That's what sports - and the Olympics - does to you.
Fun record fact: Canada's gold medal win in 2010 snapped a tie with the Soviet Union for most golds in men's ice hockey. Team Canada has now won 8 of the 22 competitions.
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