ON THIS DATE in 1948, eighteen-year-old Dick Button landed the first double axel in Olympic history and became the first American to win a gold medal in figure skating. Button’s double axel — a jump launched while skating backward that turns 2.5 rotations in the air — highlighted a gold medal performance at the St. Moritz Olympics that the skater disavowed 62 years later. “Technically and stylistically, that (1948) program sucks,” he told National Public Radio in 2010.
Button introduced the triple loop and the camel spin to figure skating and won a second Olympic gold medal in 1952. His long career as a figure skating commentator began when he was hired to work the Squaw Valley Olympics for CBS in 1960.