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Throwback: Heaton slides to second skeleton silver after 20-year wait

5th February 1948:  Britain's John Crammond is off to a flying start in the Skeleton Bobsleigh event on the Cresta Run, during the Winter Olympics at St Moritz. He came in third to win the Bronze medal.  (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone/Getty Images)

The waiting game


February 4th, 1948

At first glance, Jack Heaton’s two Olympic silver medals in skeleton do not seem remarkable – until you delve deeper and realise they were won 20 years apart.

Heaton, who came from a wealthy New Haven family, first competed on the Olympic stage in 1928. Going down the famous Cresta Run in St Moritz, Switzerland where his family had often holidayed before, he finished second to his older brother Jennison.

Sadly for the Heatons, skeleton did not make an appearance at the following two Games – in Lake Placid, USA, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany – because suitable runs were not available.


Keeping busy

Heaton, whose real name was John but was known as Jack, did, however, still pilot the US two-man bobsled to bronze in 1932.

Because skeleton was seen as synonymous with St Moritz and the Cresta Run, it returned when the Olympic Winter Games went back there in 1948. And so did Heaton.

Even though he was 39, the American was still regarded as one of the favourites for gold.


Denied by a former fan

As it was, a local greengrocer named Nino Bibbia, beat him to it. The shy Italian had actually watched the 1928 Games live as a young boy.

Bibbio went on to become a legend in skeleton, winning more than 180 races at St Moritz in a career spanning five decades.

Skeleton did not reappear at a Winter Games until 2002, by which time Heaton had been dead for almost 30 years. His name still lives on with the Heaton Cup, which he and brother Jennison started in the 1930/31 season, and which is organised by the St Moritz Tobogganing Club.


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