Terry McDermott, the speed skater who won the lone U.S. gold medal of the 1964 Winter Olympics, then appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” episode that also included the Beatles’ live American TV debut, has died at age 82, according to U.S. Speedskating.
“The USS family is saddened by the news that one of our all-time greats, Terry McDermott, passed away early Saturday surrounded by his family,” according to the national governing body. “Terry had a massive impact on our sport. Our thoughts are with those that Terry inspired over his many decades in our sport.”
McDermott, then 23 and an Essexville, Michigan, native, upset Soviet Yevgeny Grishin for the Olympic 500m title on Feb. 4, 1964, in Innsbruck, Austria. He did so on skates borrowed from U.S. coach Leo Freisinger.
Five days later, McDermott was part of pop culture history. He had been invited to appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” skipping the Olympic Closing Ceremony, on what happened to be the same episode that the Beatles had their landmark performance. About halfway through the show, Sullivan called McDermott out to stand from his seat in the audience and take a bow.
McDermott, who was also a barber, said that Sullivan wanted to get a picture of him cutting one of the Beatles’ hair. That led to the famous image of McDermott, surrounded by Sullivan and the rest of the Beatles, pretending to cut Paul McCartney‘s hair.
“They were very polite,” McDermott told NBC for a Sochi Olympic feature commemorating the 50th anniversary. “They called me sir and my wife ma’am. We had a small conversation about the Olympics. At that time, I knew nothing about the Beatles. When they were performing, the place went crazy. Matter of fact, you could hardly hear them in the theater. It was quite a show.”
McDermott returned for the 1968 Grenoble Winter Games, his third Olympics, and shared silver in the 500m. But McDermott was put in the last of 24 pairs on an outdoor oval that melted badly in the sun that day. The gold medalist, West German Erhard Keller, said that McDermott would have won if he was in an earlier pair.
NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.