With the 2022 Winter Olympics underway, Justin Kramer reflects on the history of the student-athletes and Dartmouth alumni who compete in the event.
Dartmouth student-athletes and alumni have excelled at the Winter Olympics for nearly a century, as at least one Olympian with Dartmouth ties has represented the College every year since 1924.
Since a pair of ’26ers (that’s the class of 1926, mind you) and a ’34 won Dartmouth’s first winter medals in 1932 in bobsleigh, hockey, and speed skating, respectively, Dartmouth’s Winter Olympic athletes reached 13 gold medals overall, nine silver medals and five bronzes, with summer athletes winning the College another 22 medals. According to data from the Dartmouth Athletics Department website, 111 different Dartmouth athletes have competed in the Winter Olympics, with 168 Olympic appearances in total, as some athletes have competed in multiple Olympics.
Notably, the number of winter athletes with ties to Dartmouth at each Olympics has generally increased over the past half-century. Dartmouth reached a relative peak in 1940 and 1948 with nine athletes, but sent no more than five from 1960 to 1980, reaching as few as two reps in 1968. Unsurprisingly, the 1940 peak was eight skiers and only one other athlete. After World War II, none of them returned to compete, but eight men’s hockey players joined the American roster in 1948.
Since 1980, however, Dartmouth’s representation at the Winter Olympics has soared, hitting double digits in 1992, 13 in 2006 and 15 in 2018 before falling back to eight this year. The College sent at least 10 athletes to each Winter Olympics from 2006 to 2018.
Another way to visualize this pattern is to look at Dartmouth’s cumulative number of Winter Olympic athletes over time. The cumulative number of athletes grew rapidly at first, before slowing from about 1956 until 1980. Since then, the “slope” of the graph has become much steeper, the total number of Winter Olympic athletes from Dartmouth soaring since 2002.
What is responsible for the massive growth in the number of Winter Olympic athletes in Dartmouth? The biggest factor is the emergence of women’s skiing, as the Big Green only sent its first female skier in 1988. In the past 30 years alone, 17 other Dartmouth-bound skiers have competed in the Olympics, totaling 30 additional Olympic appearances.
As you might expect, skiing is by far the most represented sport in Dartmouth at the Olympics, but the second most represented sport isn’t even a winter sport: men’s athletics fielded 22 athletes at the Summer Olympics for a total of 31 Olympic appearances. Men’s and women’s hockey, biathlon, men’s and women’s rowing and kayaking are among the other sports that have most frequently featured student-athletes and Dartmouth alumni. Dartmouth has also had at least one athlete competing in bobsleigh, luge and speed skating.
However, not all of these running totals are created equal. Although Dartmouth saw 20 student-athletes and men’s hockey alumni compete in the Olympics, they only had two players after the 1956 Olympics. began competing in the Olympics for the United States and Canada only in 1998, when women’s hockey became an official sport at the Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Notably, Dartmouth’s first two men’s hockey Olympians won silver medals in 1920 Summer Olympics, while hockey made its debut as a summer sport at the Games in Antwerp, Belgium.
While Dartmouth’s Olympic representatives overwhelmingly competed for the United States, approximately 18% competed for other nations between the Summer and Winter Olympics. Nine student-athletes and Dartmouth alumni have represented Canada, most playing hockey, including 2016 Laura Stacey, who won a silver medal with Canada in 2018 and is playing again in Beijing this year. Great Britain, Iceland, New Zealand and Puerto Rico are among the other countries for which multiple Dartmouth Olympians have competed, along with 12 other countries that have entered a single Dartmouth Olympian.
With eight athletes representing Canada, Norway and the United States at the Olympics this year, Dartmouth alumni and current student-athletes will look to add to Big Green’s medal count and build on Dartmouth’s long history. in participation and success at the Winter Olympics.