Olympic Skaters Return To Lake Placid 40 Years After 1980 Winter Games | WAMC

Olympic Skaters Return To Lake Placid 40 Years After 1980 Winter Games

Feb 18, 2020

As the village continues to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Olympics, skaters are back in Lake Placid to celebrate. They met with media Tuesday morning and then were honored in the Herb Brooks Arena.

Thirteen members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team are remembering their time on the ice as Lake Placid looks back at the Olympic Games that made the Adirondack village, and many of the participating athletes, globally famous.

Perhaps one of the most recognized skaters from those games is Scott Hamilton.  He was the flag bearer in 1980 but won his Olympic medals in the 1984 Winter Olympics.  He says Lake Placid prepared him for those eventual medals.  “It was a breakthrough year for me. I was able to, you know, get a lot of attention here as someone that no expectations and I ended up coming in fifth. You know, I think I might have been fourth in the long program. So, I mean, it was a kind of a coming out party for me. And the man did so well: 3-4-5. So for me, you know, carrying the flag in the opening ceremonies, and then being able to compete as well as I did, which set up the next four years, you know, it was it was it was a coming out party.”

After working for years to get to the Olympics, pairs skaters Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia were favorites for a potential medal performance.  But that was dashed when Gardner pulled a groin muscle and the two were forced to withdraw from competition. Babilonia says returning to Lake Placid 40 years later helps bring closure to a devastating part of her life.   “That night was so confusing, um, sad. But the town and all of you helped us to get through it. You know I embrace what happened. I know it sounds crazy with the injury and withdrawing and you know, but that's our history. That's our story. Over the years and through a lot of therapy I have learned to embrace that incredibly crazy evening. And as Mabel Fairbanks my first skating teacher always said tomorrow is not promised. So be in the moment and embrace, you know, your family and your friends and your sport.”

Most agreed with pairs skater Peter Carruthers that the Lake Placid Olympiad was the last of its kind and will never be reproduced.  “The thing I miss the most about all of that, going from ‘80 to ‘84 all the way up, it wasn't a village anymore. You couldn't just walk through town or drive through town. This was the last village Olympics as far as Winter Games go. And then it was cities. Venues were really spread out. The charm was there and we got to experience the last of it.”

The 1980 skaters then gathered in the Herb Brooks Arena where a permanent banner was raised to honor them.   “In this temple of American ice hockey we are going to raise a banner dedicated to their names forever. The 1980 United States winter skating team. The Dream Team.”

Fortieth anniversary events will continue in Lake Placid through Sunday.