Great Moments In Icelandic History: Iceland gets its first Olympic Medal

Published August 15, 2008

While many right now are cheering on Iceland’s Olympians competing in Beijing, there still remains great national pride and honour in remembering that unforgettable moment in time when the country won its very first medal.

While Iceland’s Olympic history goes back to 1921, when their Olympic committee was first started and becoming officially recognised by the IOC in 1935, it wasn’t until 1956 at the Melbourne Olympics that an Olympic dream was finally realised.

Vilhjálmur Einarsson – known throughout the country today as “Silver Man” – stunned the world when at Melbourne he sprang a Herculean leap, bounding 16.26 meters in the men’s triple jump. This miraculous achievement set a world record briefly until Adhemar da Silva eclipsed it shortly after.

Einarsson says that the Silver medal win came as a huge shock for him AND the country. “I remember that before the ’56 Olympics started, a famous journalist wrote that Iceland shouldn’t send anyone to the Olympics, as there was no point to it because there had been many previous disappointments. ‘Why waste all that money sending an Icelander halfway across the world?’” he says. “It was quite a big surprise in Iceland for me to win a medal.”

At the time, Einarsson was two years into college at Dartmouth University and enthusiastically participated in the school’s track and field team. Through this experience, he got into excellent athletic form, ready to take on the world. Einarsson recalls that in the run up to the Melbourne Games during the qualifiers in Sweden, he broke the Scandinavian record for the triple jump, and then continuously got better and better. “I improved my personal best by a meter and then another meter,” he says. “This was a very big improvement in such a short period of time!”

After accomplishing a silver finish in Melbourne, Einarsson continued his Olympic ambitions to the next games set in Rome in 1960. He remembers the buzz at the time was high and the pressure was on him to go for the gold. However, a heat wave struck the city during his competition and a Russian triple-jumper strategically delayed his jump by 10 to 15 minutes, intentionally upping Einarsson’s stress level before he was to take his turn. As a result, he suffered the agony of fifth place. “I remember the whole stadium booing the Russian, it’s one of my strongest memories of the games,” he says.



Mag
Articles
Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

by and

In Reykjavík and beyond, there are some activities that are available only in the winter season. January can be made

Mag
Articles
SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

by

When I meet working psychologist and PhD student Erla Björnsdóttir, it’s already dark outside. Reykjavík’s streets are becoming treacherous as

Mag
Articles
A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

by

Icelanders are obsessed with the weather. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever been here: the weather

Mag
Articles
WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

by

To mark the beginning of a new year, we posed two questions to dozens of Icelanders, old and new. Representatives

Mag
Articles
Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

by

DARK ICELAND can be a total fucker to deal with, all Northern Lights and magical elves aside. So guess what:

Mag
Articles
Year In News: 2014

Year In News: 2014

by

The year 2014 was chock-full of controversies, blunders, humour, and, of course, cat stories. So brew yourself a cuppa and

Show Me More!