Top 13 U.S. Winter Olympians- page 12 | History | Smithsonian
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Shaun White, Snowboarding (Joe Klamar / AFP / Getty Images)

Top 13 U.S. Winter Olympians

These athletes took home gold, but also stole our hearts. Choose your favorite winter Olympian in our poll

Dan Jansen, Speed Skating

Dan Jansen, Speed Skating
(Chris Cole / Allsport)

When speed skater Dan Jansen won a gold medal at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, he received a congratulatory fax from former president Ronald Reagan saying, “good things come to those who wait!” Jansen made his Olympic debut at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, where, at age 18, he clinched a respectable fourth place finish. He returned in 1988, but his sister Jane died of leukemia the day of his first race. With the news weighing heavily on him, he fell in both the 500 meter and 1000 meter events. He competed again in 1992, but didn’t make medal standings. Sadly, it seemed like history was going to repeat itself yet again, when Jansen lost his footing during the 500 meter event in 1994’s Olympics in Lillehammer. But four days later, in the 1000 meter, he clocked a world record, and finally nabbed a gold. Victory never tasted so sweet!

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