Photo courtesy of Scott Allen
By Steve Sears
Scott Allen still has “an absolutely beautiful bronze medal,” as well as one of the blades from a boot he wore when, at age 14, he was the youngest person ever to win a Winter Olympics medal.
Allen was fourth going into the final skate during the final figure skating competition at the 1964 Winter Olympic Games at Innsbruck, Austria, but then pulled up in to third. “And obviously elated to do so,” Allen says. He was also very close to the silver medal winner, Alain Calmat of France. “I was very close to him as well, and he had a difficult time of it, he fell several times. I came very close to getting the silver that year. It was a wonderful experience.”
Allen, who is a descendent of Revolutionary War hero, Ethan Allen, and son of Swedish national figure skating champion, Sonja Fuhrman, started skating competitively at age 6. By the age of 9, he had competed in the Novice division of the U.S. Championships and garnered a silver medal. In 1961, after moving up to the Junior division, he at age 12 repeated that silver medal performance again at the national competition. Allen also was a 1964 and 1966 U.S. national champion, and a 1965 World Championship silver medalist.
It should be noted that Allen almost missed winning his bronze medal, and enjoying the whole Olympic experience itself. Wanting his young skater to experience the 1961 World Championships, Allen’s Skating Club of New York coach, Fritz Dietl, secured tickets for he and his young skater to board a plane on February 15, 1961 and fly with the United States Figure Skating World Team to Brussels. At the last moment, a malfunction at an ice rink that Dietl founded and ran (the Fritz Dietl Ice Skating Rink) forced him to give up his and Allen’s tickets. “It was a thriving rink,” Allen recalls. “He had just started it. He was a one man show; he designed the rink, managed it, and he had a serious engineering background. We had tickets for that flight, and we were prepared to go, but the compressors at Hillsdale, they broke and malfunctioned, and his whole livelihood was really invested in that rink financially.”
Dietl planned on delaying the trip by a week, and in a tragic event, the Sabena Flight 548 carrying the U.S. team members crashed outside of Brussels, Belgium, killing everyone on board. “There were so many skaters from the New York area and Boston on that flight, and judges and officials and friends, and so it was a very personal and tragic time for all of us who were in the skating community and knew all those skaters well,” Allen says sadly.
Two years later, Allen was on the podium in Innsbruck, a bronze medal around his neck. “The most exciting time I’ve ever had, frankly. All the competitors had skated and I was back in the dressing room waiting for the results,” Allen says. A few minutes later, Allen was delivered the great news when his happy coach came running down the hallway underneath the stands and burst in the dressing room. “He was elated, and I was elated.”
When Allen returned home to Kinnelon, a “Scott Allen Day” was held with a small parade. “My local support was fantastic,” Allen fondly remembers. “I went to Stonybrook (Elementary) School and then Kinnelon High School, and so I had a lot of friends in Kinnelon that had followed me. I had a very superb relationship with Kinnelon and everybody who lives in the surrounding communities, and that was really one of the highlights of growing up there.”
Allen, who afterwards graduated from both Harvard University and Columbia Business School, reflects on the enormous scope of the Olympics. “The actual reach of the Olympics doesn’t take hold of you until you get back home, and you see the amount of people that were watching and following it, and the amount of mail that you get from all over the country,” he says. “It was really astonishing. It was at least tenfold of anything I had ever received in terms of fan mail. Once you get home, you see the enormity and the reach of the Olympics and how much effect it had.”