Minnesota Olympians honored in new book
(KMSP) - Two kids from Minnesota -- sure made this state proud. It was 1952 and the stage was the winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway.
“The opening ceremonies for me were the most exciting part. It's when you walk in the big stadium 130,000 people there. That's when it hit me what an honor it was to be there -- very thrilling." Janet Gerhauser said.
Gerhauser and her pairs figure skating partner John Nightingale put on a flawless performance -- and realized a childhood dream.
"Yes, we really wanted to be there." Gerhauser said. “We skated to a Jerome Kern medley of music. “The music was picked for us by our coach and we loved it.”
They finished an impressive sixth place, but back then much of their story wasn't seen like it is today. There was no live coverage of the Olympics and very few, if any, parents traveled with the athletes.
"Skating wise, when I look out at the oval, we skated on a piece of ice just like the oval called Bislett Stadium. And we skated outdoors,” Gerhauser said.
Janet has the pictures and the memories to share and now some of them are also permanently imprinted in a new book, Minnesota Gold, written by Patrick Mader, a retired history and geography professor.
The book focuses on Olympians from Minnesota. Mader said there are at least 300 living Olympians in the state, although he only featured 57 in his book.
"There are some common themes; athletic, driven, self-directed people -- terribly modest. Very friendly and articulate people,” Mader said. "The minute the Olympics were over they went back to their jobs. John Mayasich told me the story about how he won on Sunday and Monday he was at work in his radio job."
Mader thinks the early settlers had a lot to do with the state's ability to produce so many athletes.
“I do think pioneers and the early people were very health conscious. They were good organizers and they had programs for youth and they became the elite athletes in their sport."
And that played into Gerhauser and Nightingale’s story and so many others that are so wonderful to share.
Gerhauser went on to be an Olympic team manager in 1984 and an Olympic judge in 1988 and 2002.
And she’s still so proud to be an Olympian herself.
"I do I still choke up when they raise the American flag or play the national anthem,” Gerhauser said.