Billy Fiske (the bobsledder, not the stock-car champ) was born June 4, 1911 in New York, NY. He died Aug. 17, 1940. Not a huge amount of information exists about him.
Billy Fiske was a pioneering bobsled captain/driver and World War II fighter pilot. Unfortunately, he couldn't drive a plane as well as a bobsled. He was a New England rich kid from a banking family that had survived the depression with style. His family shipped him off to Europe for schooling.
He got his start in the sport of Bobsledding while in school in Europe. At the young age of 16, he and some school chums decided to start sledding. They entered the rase at Saint Moritz, Switzerland. Oddly enough, the Olympics and World Championships allowed 5-man teams in 1927 and 1928. To point out the magnitude of Fiske's team accomplishment, let me quote some times: In 1927, the English bobsled team ran the St. Moritz course in 6:09. A year later, Fiske's team ran the SAME course in 3:20. He not only won the gold, but was (and still is) the youngest bobsled medalist ever.
Four years later, in 1932, Fiske drove a standard 4 man team to a second gold Olympic victory at Lake Placid. His parents got to see him race this time. One of his pushers was Eddie Eagan, who competed in the 1920 Olympics. He was the light heavyweight champion, and is the only athlete ever to win gold medals in both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games. Fiske won the Swiss Grand National championship on the Cresta Run in Switzerland in 1936 and 1938. However, he either lost, or did not compete in the world championships those years.
In 1938, Fiske married the Countess of Warwick. He, being a strapping young man in England, decided to join the British Royal Air Force in 1939. It took some work, as only citizens of the commonwealth could join the RAF. He passed himself off as Canadian, and talked to some high ranking people. In keeping with his fast-and-loose lifestyle, he played golf. The highlight of his game was speeding in his Bentley around the course. On April 12, 1940, he was commissioned an officer in the RAF. Fiske managed to gain a rather morbid title. He was the first US pilot killed in the war. In 1940, he was badly wounded. Even though he crash-landed, his burn injuries proved fatal 2 months later. His memorial reads: "An American Citizen, Who Died That England Might Live."
The Billy Fiske Memorial Trophy is awarded to the national champion four-man bobsled team each year.
Written for Everything Quests: Athletes and Sports Figures
- The Encyclopedia of Sports, 4th ed. 1969 by Frank G. Menke