Winter Olympics Through the Years: 1956

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Cortina d'Ampezzo

The Soviet Union emerged from the shadows of the Cold War in 1952 to make its Olympic debut at the Summer Games in Helsinki. Finishing a close second to the United States in overall medal count (74–71), the Russians served notice that they were an athletic superpower to be reckoned with.

In 1956, the USSR made its first appearance in the Winter Games and not only outmedaled the 32–nation field, but dethroned Canada as hockey champion. Four of the USSR's seven gold medals came in speed skating, where Yevgeny Grishin led the way with gold medals in the 500 and 1,500 meters.

Despite a shortage of snow in northern Italy, the outstanding performance of the VIIth Winter Games belonged to a skier named Sailer. By winning the downhill, slalom and giant slalom, Toni Sailer of Austria became the first skier to sweep all three Alpine events and only the fifth winter athlete to win three gold medals at one Olympics.

Swedish cross-country skier Sixten Jernberg, who would eventually participate in three Winter Games and win a total of nine medals, led all contestants in Cortina with four, including a gold at 50 kilometers.

The women's and men's figure skating titles were won by Americans Tenley Albright and Hayes Jenkins, who were both reigning world champions. Albright had won a silver medal in 1952, while Jenkins had finished fourth.

Top 10 Standings

National medal standings are not recognized by the IOC. The unofficial point totals are based on 3 points for a gold medal, 2 for a silver and 1 for a bronze. Total medals are in parentheses.

1USSR (16)73633
2Austria (11)43422
3Sweden (10)24418
4Finland (7)33116
5Switzerland (6)32114
 USA (7)23214
7Norway (4)2119
8Italy (3)1207
9Germany (2)1014
 Canada (3)0124

Leading Medal Winners

Number of individual medals won on the left; gold, silver and bronze breakdown to the right.


No SportG-S-B
4Sixten Jernberg, SWEX-country1-2-1
3Toni Sailer, AUTAlpine3-0-0
3Veikko Hakulinen, FINX-country1-2-0
3Pavel Kolchin, USSRX-country1-0-2
2Yevgeny Grishin, USSRSp. Skate2-0-0
2Sigvard Ericsson, SWESp. Skate1-1-0
2Fedor Terentyev, USSRX-country1-0-1
2Renzo Alvera, ITABobsled0-2-0
2Eugenio Monti, ITABobsled0-2-0
2Andreas Molterer, AUTAlpine0-1-1
2Oleg Goncharenko, USSRSp. Skate0-0-2


No SportG-S-B
2Lyubov Kozyreva, USSRX-country1-1-0
2Radya Eroshina, USSRX-country0-2-0
2Sonja Edstrom, SWEX-country0-0-2

Alpine Skiing


Event  Time
DownhillToni Sailer, AUT2:52.2
SlalomToni Sailer, AUT3:14.7
G.SlalomToni Sailer, AUT3:00.1


Event  Time
DownhillMadeleine Berthod, SWI1:40.7
SlalomRenée Colliard, SWI1:52.3
G.SlalomOssi Reichert, GER1:56.5


Event  Time
2-ManITA (Lamberto Dalla Costa & 
 Giacomo Conti)5:30.14
4-ManSWI (Franz Kapus, Gottfried Diener,
Robert Alt, Heinrich Angst)

Figure Skating

Event  Points
MenHayes Jenkins, USA166.43
WomenTenley Albright, USA169.67
PairsElisabeth Schwartz & Kurt Oppelt, AUT11.31

Ice Hockey

(Overall records in parentheses)

1USSR (7-0-0)55-0-010255
2USA (5-2-0)54-1-082612
3Canada (6-2-0)53-2-062311
4Sweden (2-4-1)51-3-131022
5Czechoslovakia (3-4-0)51-4-022030
6Germany (1-5-2)50-4-11635
Note: The USSR beat the U.S., 4–0, and Canada, 2–0. The U.S. beat Canada, 4–1.

Nordic Skiing


Cross Country

Event  Time  
15kmHallgeir Brenden, NOR49:39.0 
30kmVeikko Hakulinen, FIN1:44:06.0 
50kmSixten Jernberg, SWE2:50:27.0 
4x10kmUSSR (Fedor Terentyev, Pavel Kolchin,
Nikolai Anikin, Vladimir Kuzin)

Ski Jumping

Event  Points 
90mAntti Hyvärinen, FIN227.0 

Nordic Combined

Event Points
15km/JumpSverre Stenersen, NOR455.000


Cross Country

Event  Time
10kmLyubov Kosyreva, USSR38:11.0
3x5kmFIN (Sirkka Polkunen, Mirja Hietamies,
Siira Rantanen)

Speed Skating


Event  Time  
500mYevgeny Grishin, USSR40.2WR
1500mYevgeny Grishin, USSR
& Yuri Mikhailov, USSR
5000mBoris Shilkov, USSR7:48.7OR
10,000mSigvard Ericsson, SWE16:35.9OR
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