Moment: Unity of the Olympics

Contributed By By Sonja Carlson, Church News staff writer

  • 4 March 2014

Article Highlights

  • Speed skater Barbara Lockhart became friends with the Russian speed-skating team, and they taught her some of their techniques.
  • During the 1964 Winter Olympic Games, Lockhart was in the lead to win gold, but with one lap left she fell and came in 20th.
  • Lockhart felt the support of the Russian skaters and their disappointment on her behalf when she fell and lost the race, even though her falling helped them win a gold medal.

“I still was really elated because that race had been better than anything I had done in my life.” —Barbara Lockhart

The story of BYU professor, convert to the Church, and Olympian speed skater Barbara Lockhart’s friendship with the Russian speed-skating team embodies the unity the Olympics brings.

In an interview in 1994 that highlighted some of her activities in the years following her competitions in the Olympics, Sister Lockhart said she’d had a desire to learn Russian before the 1960 Winter Games were held in Squaw Valley, California.

“That was in the late 1950s, a time when Americans were looking at Russians as their number 1 enemy,” she said. “A lot of people thought I was strange for wanting to learn Russian. I don’t know why I wanted to study it. As soon as the Russian team arrived at Squaw Valley [in 1960], I went over and introduced myself. … The Russian team took me with them when they went on little side trips.”

She was 17. “I had won the U.S. trials for the 500 meter and was the first woman to qualify for the American speed skating team. I figured that since I had won the U.S. trials I could win the Olympics, if I just worked hard enough. We really didn’t have coaches that year,” Sister Lockhart said.

The Russian speed skaters and their coach taught her some of their techniques. “I ended up over-training and got sick,” she said. “I was supposed to have been in the 500-meter event but was taken out of that race and put in the 1,500-meter. I didn’t do well at all. I finished something like 18th.”

At the 1964 Winter Games, she skated in the 3,000-meter event, in which she “had one of those races that was a peak experience.”

“Everything went perfectly,” she said. “I was on the Olympic record. I was skating better than ever. Nobody expected me to do that well. It looked like I was going to win. With one lap to go, I fell. I jumped right back up and finished the race and came in about 20th. I still was really elated because that race had been better than anything I had done in my life.”

Because of the friendships formed, she felt the support of the Russian skaters and their disappointment on her behalf when she fell and lost the race, even though her falling helped them win a gold medal.

She was introduced to the Church in 1963 through missionaries sent by a friend to her parents’ home in Park Ridge, Illinois. She continued discussions when she went to college and then returned to Chicago where she was baptized prior to the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. —Sonja Carlson (source: Church News, Feb. 26, 1994)