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.
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."