Ice Network

Noyes still feels value of representing Team USA

Two-time U.S. Olympian remains tied to memories from competitive days
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Tina Noyes, pictured here with husband Larry Zimmerman, continues to cherish the memories from her time as a U.S. Olympian. -Courtesy of Tina Noyes

Six-time U.S. ladies medalist and two-time Olympian Tina Noyes, who recently received the Dorothy Franey Langkop Ambassador Award from the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association, continues to live by the motto "once an Olympian, always an Olympian."

Her recent trip to Colorado Springs, where she received the award for her continued embodiment of the Olympic spirit, provided Noyes the opportunity to show husband Larry Zimmerman the city that remains close to her heart.

A visit to the stone bench shaped like the blade of a skate at U.S. Figure Skating headquarters, which is in memory of the 1961 world team that perished in a plane crash, was deeply emotional for Noyes, who was the U.S. novice champion that year. She and fellow members of the Skating Club of Boston celebrated the club's success at those U.S. Championships, but sadly, several club members and coaches perished in the crash only a few weeks later.

As Noyes trained and competed over the next three years, she worked her way up the ladder. She won the junior ladies title in 1963, and, in her first year in the senior ranks, earned a spot on the 1964 Olympic team. At the U.S. Championships in Cleveland that year, she and Peggy Fleming, then both 15, outscored several skaters with more experience by delivering impressive free skates.

"It was a big deal because we were the young hopefuls," Noyes recalled. "Being on the '64 team was truly one of the highlights of my skating career."

The 1964 Olympic Winter Games were in Innsbruck, Austria, but before boarding a plane for Europe, there was a moment in New York City that Noyes found both uncomfortable and comforting. After the skaters had received their team uniforms, they went to a church that had a stained glass window with depictions of skaters in memory of the 1961 world team.

"I felt, 'I'm filling some extremely big shoes,'" recalled Noyes, especially since she, along with Fleming, had no idea what to expect heading into their first major senior international competition.

"We were in awe that there were so many people there -- athletes from all over the world," she said. "The opening ceremony was at the alpine ski jump area. We walked down into this bowl and I remember lining up with my team. I was right near (skiers) Jimmie Heuga and Billy Kidd. (Pairs skater) Cindy Kauffman and I got to meet them. I thought it was so cool that we were meeting all those big names in other sports."

Noyes finished eighth at those Olympics. Four years later, she had loftier goals heading to Grenoble -- she wanted to win a medal.

"We did feel like veterans," she said.

A disciplined skater who was always focused on putting forth her best skate, Noyes chose to walk in the opening ceremony despite other skaters deciding against it.

"I did not want to miss that. That's the coolest ever," she said. "The experience and the excitement of being on the Olympic team is something so special."

Back in 1968, skaters did six compulsory figures and a free skate. After the first day of compulsory figures, Noyes was in third place, but her most challenging figure would come on day two.

"I remember being put on a terrible piece of ice at the end of the rink where the ice was actually sloped, so I had to figure out which direction to start so that when I was coming back to center, I would be going downhill," she said. "It was not my best."

She was in fourth, but still very much within reach of third place. Her friend, Czech skater Hana Mašková, was her closest rival for the bronze medal. Noyes had a triple planned in her program, but coaches Peter and Sonya Dunfield advised her to skip the triple and go for the clean program.

Noyes, however, wanted to go all out.

"I landed two triples in the warm-up, but I opened up in the middle of it when I did it in my program. Hana skated a clean program and ended up third," said Noyes, who finished fourth. Fleming had a huge lead from the figures and went on to win.

"That was a disappointment to me, but years later, I still feel the value of being an Olympian," she added. "The importance of trying and the hard work involved."