Speed Skating Hall of Fame

Jack Shea

Born: September 7, 1910 - Lake Placid, New York (USA)
Died: January 17, 2002 - Saranac Lake (USA)

Jack Shea won two Olympic gold medals (500 m and 1500 m) in the Olympic Games 1932, in his hometown Lake Placid. He was North American speed skating champion 1929 and national champion 1930.

Shea would have been one of the favourites for the 1936 Olympics, but Lake Placid had a large Jewish community whose rabbi asked him not to compete in Hitler's Germany, and Shea decided not to go. He later said he had no regrets about foregoing a chance to skate at the 1936 Olympic Winter Games stating, "I'm proud I didn't go. It was the right thing to do."

Shea stayed involved in the Olympic Movement throughout his life. He was chosen to read the Olympic oath during the opening ceremonies in 1932. As supervisor of the town of North Elba, which includes Lake Placid, Shea played a major role in persuading Olympic officials to award the 1980 Winter Games to his hometown. In December 2001, he participated in the Olympic Torch Relay for the Salt Lake City Games, carrying the torch into the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, where he had won his gold medals, and lit the cauldron.

He had a family of Olympians. His son, Jim Shea Sr. competed in the nordic combined and cross-country skiing in Innsbruck 1964. Seventy years after Jack Shea won his Olympic gold medals his grandson, Jim Shea Jr., followed in his footsteps by reading the Olympic oath and winning Olympic gold in skeleton in Salt Lake City 2002. During his race, Jim Shea had a picture of his grandfather stuck in his helmet. The Sheas became the first 3-generation Olympic family from USA.

Jack Shea died January 17th 2002 from internal injuries he suffered in a car accident a day earlier a few blocks from home. At age 91, Jack Shea was America's oldest living Winter Games gold medalist.

In 2000, U.S. Speedskating created The Jack Shea Award, which symbolizes dedication to Olympic excellence, citizenship and the betterment of mankind through sport. Shea was the first recipient, Eric Heiden the second.

Bjarte Hetland, December 7, 2013

Career summary


Podia at championships

yearpositionchampionshipplace
19321 Olympic Winter Games 500 metersLake PlacidUSA
1 Olympic Winter Games 1500 metersLake PlacidUSA

Personal Bests

distancetimedateplace
500m0:45.0Feb 14, 1931Lake PlacidUSA
1500m2:25.2Feb 15, 1931Lake PlacidUSA