Terry McDermott was a speed skater who won a gold medal in the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
Terry McDermott’s legacy
McDermott’s Olympic gold was an impressive upset victory over the reigning champion, Yevgeny Grishin of the Soviet Union. At the height of the Cold War and in an Olympic event at which the Soviets excelled, McDermott defied expectations. Racing in the 500-meter event, he shaved half a second off Grishin’s 40.6-second time and shattered the Soviet champion’s Olympic record of 40.2 seconds.
McDermott became an American hero, the only athlete from the U.S. to win gold at those Olympics. Back at home, he appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on the same day as the Beatles’ first U.S. performance. He returned to the Olympics four years later in Grenoble, France, carrying the U.S. flag in the opening ceremonies. That year, he won a silver medal.
McDermott also worked as a barber and as a manufacturer’s representative. In 1977, he was inducted into the National Speedskating Hall of Fame.
“At the time, the Soviets were not allowed to speak with Americans, they weren’t allowed to socialize at all. You may have nodded to them or shook their hands, but nothing beyond that. The Cold War was going on and it carried over into the Olympics. The Russians came along in ‘56 and dominated every sport, it was awful hard to beat them in anything. So, going against them, you tried a little harder.” —from a 2010 interview for mlive.com
Tributes to Terry McDermott
Full obituary: The Washington Post