1980 Olympics

    February 12, 2010

    LAKE PLACID, USA, FEB. 13-24, 1980

    For the first time since Canada’s entry into Olympic cross country competition, the Canadian Olympic Association (COA) vetoed a men’s team citing lack of potential top 16 performances by the men’s group. Fortunately a five member women’s squad was named to the second Winter Games hosted by Lake Placid which was armed with snow making equipment to prevent mild weather from taking the upper hand as it had in some cases in 1932. In their third Olympics were Inuvik twins Shirley and Sharon Firth while Joan Groothuysen, now of Bonnyville, Alberta, and Esther Miller of Burns Lake, BC were back for a second time teamed with newcomer Angela Schmidt of Midland, Ontario.

    The East Germans and Soviets dominated the gold medal chase as Barbara Petsold of East Germany took the 5 km while Groothuysen ran 27th as top Canadian. 27-year-old Soviet veteran, Raisa Smetanina took the 10 km gold but settled for silver in the relay behind Petsold’s strong East German squad. 20-year-old Angela Schmidt finished 23rd in the 10 km event as best Canadian among 38 skiers and ran eighth out of eight relay squads with teammates Groothuysen, Miller and Shirley Firth.

    Without a men’s team Canadians cheered their American neighbours who hit a Soviet wall led by Nikolai Zimyatov who claimed three golds (30 km, 50 km and relay) while Thomas Wassberg of Sweden defeated Juha Mieto of Finland by 1/100th of a second or 5.96 cm in the 15 km sprint. The 1/100th of a second timing was abolished the following year.