Buckle up, look both ways…follow basic safety procedures.The speed skating competition at the 1928 Olympics, held in St. Moritz, Switzerland, ended in a literal “melt down.” During the 10,000 meter race, U.S. skater Irving Jaffe, who had finished fourth in the 5,000 meter skate, was in the lead when the rising temperatures began to melt the ice. Due to the conditions, the race could not be completed,. The Norwegian referee declared the race void, the International Olympics Committee awarded the gold to Jaffe, but then the International Skating Union took it away and re-declared the race void. 

Speed Skating, 1928, St. Moritz

While Jaffe was denied his gold in 1928, his performance in Lake Placid, NY, at the 1932 Olympics, confirmed his right to claim the title of champion. He took gold in both the 5,000 and the 10,000 meter races. There was, perhaps an extra reason for joy in the victory of winning gold in 1932. A vacation haven in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid’s clubs were known for their “No Hebrew (Jews) Allowed Winter Olympics” policies. 

Like many, Jaffe suffered bitterly during the Great Depression, even finding it necessary to pawn his gold medals. Sadly, he was never able to recover them. 

Beginning in 1934, Jaffe started a new career as the Winter Sports Director at Grossinger’s Catskill Resort, where he remained for several decades. During his Sports Directorship, Grossingers built an artificial ice skating rink, hosted Olympic speed skating trials and arranged professional ice shows. While at Grossingers, Jaffe broke the world record for the 25-mile skate in front of a crowd of thousands. 

In addition to his role at Grossinger’s, Jaffe served on the board of the second Maccabiah games in 1935. In 1940, he was elected to the United States Skating Hall of Fame, and in 1979, to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. 

Born in New York City in 1906, Irving Jaffe passed away in San Diego, California, in 1981.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *