Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Speed Skating

Speed skaters Sylvia White and Judy Martz both competed in the 1964 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Norway, but it is Judy Martz whom most Montanans remember. The two future teammates met in Butte when Sylvia was a national champion and Judy was just a kid who loved to compete and had not been training. Sylvia challenged Judy to an informal race, and Judy lost by a narrow margin of only two yards. So Judy began to set her sights on real competition. She won a spot in the nationals at St. Paul, and in 1963 she was a member of the U.S. World Speed Skating Team. Later that year, both she and Sylvia White made the U. S. Olympic Speed Skating Team. They were the first Montana women ever to make an Olympic team. Judy skated only once during the games at Innsbruck. She believes that she peaked too early during practice races. When she skated the 1500 meter race, she lost focus, fell and slid, and was too fatigued to gain ground. Even so, she was proud to finish 15th. Today Judy says that competing in that race was a golden experience. Although she doesn’t have a medal that she has to lock in a safety deposit box, she feels as if she has a gold medal tucked in her heart. But competing as one of the first two Montana women at the Olympics was not Judy’s only first. She went on to serve as Montana’s first female lieutenant governor under Mark Racicot from 1997 to 2001. She then won her bid as governor in 2001 and served one term, the first woman to take the helm of Montana’s ship of state.

The 1964 Olympic Speed Skating team, including Judy Martz (bottom row, far left) and Sylvia White (bottom row, second from right). Image from National Speed Skating Museum.

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