Shea among Hall of Fame inductees
LAKE PLACID — Jimmy Shea, Curtis Stevens, Hubert Stevens, Bill Washburn, Ivan Brown and Jack Heaton will be inducted as the seventh class of the USA Bobsled/Skeleton Hall of Fame during a private ceremony in Lake Placid the evening of June 21.
“We are excited to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of these individuals with our athletes during our national team camp,” USABS CEO Darrin Steele said.
The USABS Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the sports of bobsled and skeleton. Their dedication and commitment as athletes and supporters of USABS will be forever honored through their induction into the Hall of Fame.
Shea won the men’s skeleton gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and he was also chosen by fellow athletes to recite the athlete’s oath during the opening ceremony.
Shea was the third generation of his family to take part in a Winter Games. His father, Jim Shea, competed in Nordic combined and cross-country skiing events in the 1964 Winter Olympics, and his grandfather, Jack Shea, won two gold medals in the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in speed skating. His grandfather also recited the athlete’s oath at the 1932 opening ceremony.
Shea was born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, and moved to Lake Placid in his late teens. He became the first American to win a World Cup race and a World Championship in the sport of skeleton, and has won more World Cup victories than any other American. He retired in October 2005.
The Stevens brothers, Curtis and John Hubert, won the first-ever Olympic two-man bobsled competition, which was staged in Lake Placid in 1932. The Stevens brothers were Lake Placid locals and they took advantage of their home track. They were behind by eight seconds after the first heat, but they used blowtorches to heat their runners and overcame the Swiss in the fourth and final heat to take gold. The next summer, the international bobsled federation made it illegal to heat runners.
Their brother, Paul, won a silver medal in the four-man competition, and their other brother, Ray, was a reserve on Jack Heaton’s bronze medal two-man sled. Their mother would not allow all four brothers to compete in four-man as a team.
In February 1936, two boys from Keene Valley, Ivan Brown and Alan “Bob” Washbond, slid into Olympic history by winning the two-man bobsled gold at the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Garmisch, Germany. It would be the only gold medal for Team USA at these Olympic Games. As of 2019, the USA men have not won a two-man gold medal since this accomplishment by Brown and Brown.
The duo began sliding together in the mid 1930s. Brown was famous for his “leap frog” jump over his brakeman to gain more speed, while Washbond was known as the brakeman who never touched the brakes. Brown attributed his success to Washbond’s powerful bobbing. Brown never wore goggles, which he thought impeded his aerodynamics, and was the only pilot with these daredevil tactics.
Brown and Washbond slid together for more than eight years, and qualified for the 1940 Winter Olympic Games, which were to be held in Sapporo, but where cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.
Together with Billy Fiske, John Rutherford “Jack” Heaton is rated as one of the most brilliant of all American sliders on the “Cresta” run. Heaton competed in three Winter Olympics in 1928, 1932 and 1948. He won two silver medals in skeleton in 1928 and 1948, and one bronze in bobsled in 1932. At the 1948 games in St. Moritz, he was the American team’s flag bearer at the opening ceremonies.
His brother, Jennison, won the 1928 gold medal in skeleton in St Moritz and Jack finished right behind him. When the 1932 Winter Olympics were staged in Lake Placid there was no skeleton competition included, so Jack decided to switch to bobsledding where he drove his sled to the two-man bronze. At the skeleton “Cresta” track in St Moritz, one of the most prestigious races each year is the Heaton Cup, named after the two American brothers who slid into Olympic history.
Heaton is the only man to have won medals in the Winter Olympic Games 20 years apart. He eventually settled in France, where he lived for many years.