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Skating Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 19:41 GMT
Winter Olympic hero dies
Jim Shea (centre) with his grandfather Jack (left), and father Jim Sr  after Shea qualified for the Olympic Skeleton
Jack Shea (left) with Olympian grandson and son
Winter Olympics speed skating legend Jack Shea has died from injuries in a car accident near his home in the United States.

Shea, a member of the first family with three generations of Olympians, was the Winter Games' oldest living gold medallist at the age of 91.

His grandson Jim Shea Jr is due to compete in the skeleton event at Salt Lake City next month, while Jim Shea Sr was a nordic skier in the 1964 Games at Innsbruck, Austria.

Jack Shea won two gold medals in speed skating at the 1932 Olympics in his hometown of Lake Placid.


How proud I was to represent my country, my community, my father and mother

Jack Shea on his success in 1932

The accident happened less than a mile from Shea's home when a van slid out of control and was in collision with his car.

The driver of the van was subsequently arrested on charges which included driving while intoxicated.

Jack Shea was 22-years-old when he achieved success at the 1932 Winter Games.

He skated past the Scandinavian stars to win gold in the 500m event in 43.4 seconds - six-tenths of a second faster than his idol, Charles Jewtraw, managed in 1924 at Chamonix.

The Olympic legend went on to claim the 1500m title as well.

Shea might have had a chance to claim even more medals four years later at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Jim Shea in action in Utah earlier this month
Jack Shea's grandson qualified for the US Olympic skeleton team

But Lake Placid had a large Jewish community whose rabbi asked him not to take part in an event lin ked with Hitler's Germany and Shea agreed.

Back troubles stopped Shea from skating much after the 1950s, but the former athlete remained involved with the sport and the Olympics.

As well as regularly attending speed skating events in Lake Placid, he helped persuade the International Olympic Committee to stage the Winter Games in his hometown again in 1980.

And when the Olympic Torch relay came through the area three weeks ago on its way to Salt Lake City, Shea carried the flame into the Olympic speed skating oval and lighted the cauldron.

Shea is also survived by his wife, Elizabeth.

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