Inducted in 1988 for Modern Road & Track Competitor (1945-1975)
In the pantheon of American athletes, Arthur Longsjo holds the unique distinction of the first of only a small coterie who competed in both the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year. Longsjo competed in the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, as a speed skater and months later in the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia as a cyclist.
Longsjo also stood out as North America’s leading road racer. He won the Canadian national championship and stage races when cyclists in the United States, pedaling one-speed track bikes, were limited to a criteriums up to 50-miles in parks or downtown streets.
Cycling and speed skating share similar leg drive, which enabled Longsjo to train and compete year-round. He came from the north-central Massachusetts mill town of Fitchburg, a community settled by Finns and Swedes who founded a local sports club. It held track and field meets in the summer and speed skating competitions in the winter on frozen ponds and lakes. Longsjo grew to a wiry 6-1 with broad shoulders and huge lung capacity. He developed in the early 1950s into one of the country’s best speed skaters.
By the summer of 1953 he turned twenty-one and took up cycling. He entered the Massachusetts state cycling championship wearing cut-off skating tights, a white tennis shirt, and penny-loafers―and scored an upset victory by sweeping the one-mile, three-mile and 25-mile events that made up the program. That qualified him for the national Amateur Bicycle League of America (predecessor to the U.S. Cycling Federation) championship in St. Louis. There he burst on the national scene by scoring points with top-five finishes in four events, from one mile to 25 miles, which put him ninth.
From then on, Longsjo dominated skating and cycling. He liked telling jokes and writing postcards to friends as he traveled. His best performances were in 1958 in Eastern Canada where cycling organizers held the 500-mile the Tour du St. Laurent stage race, which he won, and the 165-mile one-day event from Quebec to Montreal, which he won for the second time in September. While driving home after winning the Quebec-Montreal race, Longsjo was killed in a car crash. The next year, the city of Fitchburg hosted a memorial race, which continues as the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic, one of the country’s oldest continuous races.
1953 – MA State Cycling Championships :: 1st
1954 – Quebec-Montreal Road Race :: 1st
1956 – Quebec-Montreal Road Race :: 1st
1958 – Tour of Somerville :: 1st
1958 – Tour du St. Laurent stage race :: 1st
1958 – Quebec-Montreal Road Race :: 1st
(courtesy – Peter Joffre Nye)