Olympic History: Japan shines in ’72 Olympics
February 11, 2010
Editor's note: In the buildup to the Winter Olympic Games beginning Friday in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Steamboat Today has partnered with the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum on a series of articles that reflect on past Winter Olympic Games, beginning with the first Winter Olympics in 1924. This is the fifth installment in that series.
The 1972 Winter Olympics marked the first time the games were held somewhere other than Europe or North America. Instead, the games were awarded to Sapporo, Japan, a city on the northernmost island of Japan. Sapporo originally was awarded the 1940 Winter Olympics but resigned after the 1937 invasion of China. Its competition for the 1972 games was Banff, Canada; Lahti, Finland; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Just more than 1,000 athletes from 35 nations competed in 35 events comprising six sports.
The downhill venue, Mount Eniwa, was created expressly for the Olympic competition. Immediately after the games, the mountain was returned to its pristine state in compliance with local conservation laws. It cost $2 million to construct and dismantle the two downhill runs, two cable cars and a chairlift.
As the popularity of skiing and manufacturers grew, so did issues with commercialism. Three days before the opening ceremonies, Avery Brundage, the president of the International Olympic Committee, threatened to disqualify 40 Alpine skiers who had received endorsements and other deals. Austrian skier Karl Schranz, who allowed his name and photograph to be used in commercial advertising, was banned as an example.
Canada refused to send an ice hockey team, protesting that they were not allowed to send professional players even though full-time ice hockey athletes from Russia and other communist countries were permitted to compete. The Canadian ice hockey team had not been taking part in international competitions since 1969 because of this dispute.
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Before 1972, Japan had never won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Competing at home, however, it swept the 70-meter ski jumping event: Yukio Kasaya won gold, Akitsugu Konno went home with silver, and Seiji Aochi was given bronze. Additionally, Spain won its first Winter Olympic gold medal when Francisco Fernandez Ochoa won the slalom.
The U.S. placed fifth in the medal tally, accumulating eight medals (three gold, two silver and three bronze). Barbara Cochran won gold in the women's slalom, and Susan Corrock was given bronze in the women's downhill. The men's ice hockey team earned a silver medal, and Janet Lynn was awarded bronze in ladies singles figure skating. The rest of the medals were won in women's speed skating events: Dianne Holum was given gold in the 1,500-meter and silver in the 3,000-meter races, and Anne Henning won gold in the 500-meter and bronze in the 1,000-meter events.
Hank Kashiwa, a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Ski Team, began skiing at age 2 in New York. After coming up through the junior ranks, he attended the University of Colorado and skied for the Army for two years. As an amateur skier, he was on the U.S. National Team from 1967 to 1972, winning the 1969 U.S. National Championships and competing in the 1970 World Championships in Val Gardena.
During the 1972 Olympics, Kashiwa placed 25th in the downhill and 21st in the giant slalom. He moved to Steamboat Springs in 1974 and, while on the pro circuit from 1972 to 1981, won the overall pro title in 1975 and was second in the 1976 "Super Stars" competition.
Kashiwa was the president of Volant Ski Corp., a Boulder-based manufacturer of the world's only stainless steel, cap-designed ski — which was designed by his brother, Bucky, at a lab in New Mexico. Kashiwa is active as a TV commentator; he announced for CBS at the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics. As the current host of "Skiing Magazine on TV," he covers winter sports during seven, one-hour segments during the ski season. Kashiwa was inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1984.