3 minute read

Jack Shea

The Olympic Saga Continues

Shea's Olympic story did not end with his death. It did not even end with Jim Shea Jr.'s emotional victory, which Jim Jr. attributed to his grandfather's spirit riding with him that day. Shea's image rode with him as well, on a funeral card bearing the man's picture which Jim Jr. tucked into his helmet and tearfully displayed to the crowds, who were chanting "U-S-Shea! U-S-Shea!," at the end of his run. Shea's Olympic saga ended with the return of the skates which Shea wore when he skated his way to gold in 1932.

A young Japanese skier, Katsumi Yamada, also competed at Lake Placid in 1932. Shea gave his winning skates to Yamada as a gesture of international friendship, and in return, Yamada gave Shea his cross-country skis. In 1955, Yamada gave the skates to a coworker's son, Kozo Yoshida, who was an aspiring speed skater. (Coincidently, Yamada and Yoshida's father worked together at the city hall of Sapporo, Japan, the city where the 1972 Winter Olympics were held.) Yoshida wore the skates to compete in the Japanese high school skating championships for three straight years, and then wore them occasionally for recreational skating for the next forty-odd years.

Yoshida was in his sixties when he read about Shea's death in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. In a ceremony a few day's after Jim Shea Jr.'s winning skeleton run, the managing editor of Yomiuri Shimbun, Kazuhiro Takaoka, unwrapped the skates and presented them to the Jim Sheas, Jr. and Sr. Tears sprung to Jim Shea Sr.'s eyes when he saw what was on the underside of one skate. "It's my dad's signature, see right there," Jim Shea Sr. was quoted as saying by Bill Dwyre in the Los Angeles Times. "This is unbelievable. I'm not sure I really believed it until I saw that." Jim Shea Sr. told the assembled reporters that he planned to donate the skates and the skis to the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.


1910 Born September 7 in Lake Placid, New York
1932 Competes in Olympics in Lake Placid
1934 Graduates from Dartmouth College
1934 Marries Elizabeth Stearnes
1936 Refuses to compete in Olympics in protest of their being held in Nazi Germany
1958-78 Serves as town justice of Lake Placid
1964 Shea's son James competes in cross-country and nordic combined skiing at Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria
1974-83 Serves as township supervisor of North Elba
1980 Instrumental in bringing Winter Olympics back to Lake Placid
2001 Becomes member of only family with three generations of Olympians when grandson Jim Shea Jr. qualifies for the U. S. Olympic skeleton team in Lake Placid December 20
2001 Carries the Olympic flame in Lake Placid December 29
2002 Dies January 22 after being struck by an allegedly drunk driver on the 21st
2002 Jim Shea Jr. wins Olympic gold in skeleton February 19

Awards and Accomplishments

1929 National speedskating championships
1930 National speedskating championships
1932 Gold Medal in Olympic 500- and 1500-meter speed skating
2000 Became first recipient of U.S. Speedskating's Jack Shea Award

In a gesture of which Shea, a lifelong embodiment of the Olympic spirit, would surely have approved, Jim Shea Jr. mailed one of the runners off of his winning skeleton sled to Yoshida in return. "This is what the Olympics are all about," Jim Shea Jr. said, as quoted by Dwyre. "My grandfather loved the friendships. He loved to do nice things for the other athletes."

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsSpeed SkatingJack Shea Biography - Olympic Spirit, A New Olympic Record, The Olympic Saga Continues, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments