Tom Corcoran was born in Japan and grew up in Canada, but that didn't prevent him from competing for the United States in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic games. In fact, it helped him. "My mother was an American but my father was Canadian, so I grew up in a small town in the Laurentians near Mt. Tremblay," explained Corcoran.
Living in such proximity to a ski area meant Tom was skiing as soon as he was able. All children in the area did, although there weren't that many. "I went to school with a class of five kids," he said. Three members of his class competed in the Olympic games -- Lucille Wheeler and Pete Kirby for Canada and Corcoran for the United States. "Sixty percent of my class went to the Olympics," he added. "That's quite a statistic."
Corcoran's New Hampshire connection comes from attending schools in this state for 10 years prior to his Olympic exploits. "First I went to the Emerson School in Exeter, the Exeter Academy," he said, "and I graduated from Dartmouth with a commission in the Navy in 1954."
Corcoran first tried out for the Olympic team when he was in the Navy. In those years, the U.S. Team was not a year-round enterprise. Rather, it was formed just months before an Olympic or world championship event. "Most of the time you had to train on your own but it wasn't as intensive as it is today," Corcoran said. "I played hockey, lacrosse, soccer -- sports that complemented skiing -- to stay in shape."
Though the international competition was as stiff in those days, Corcoran noted the atmosphere was more relaxed. "Everything is relative," he explained. "There was every bit as much interest in the Olympics, but without the impact of television, it wasn't as focused."
Racing with "wooden skis, leather boots, and flappy pants"--a far cry from the equipment and appearance of today's World Class skiers--Corcoran's best showing was in the 1960 Olympics held in Squaw Valley, California. Starting 24th in the race, he finished fourth in the giant slalom, just .6 of a second away from the bronze medal. "If I had started a little earlier, I think I would have won a medal," he said. "I was 28 years old and at the peak of my ability. I felt I was really skiing well."
Corcoran retired from competitive racing at his zenith after that Olympic year, though he ventured back just briefly. "On a lark, I went to the first tryouts for the '64 team," he said, "and ended up winning the first slalom by a substantial amount. It gave me a great feeling of well being."
Following his ski racing career, Corcoran coached for a few years in an effort to give something back to the sport that had done so much for him. Having received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1958, he eventually moved into the business end of the ski industry and now** serves as president of the Waterville Valley Ski Area.
Corcoran enjoyed his years competing for the United States but is glad he did it then. "It's much more of a single-minded effort these days," he said. "There is no room for many other things. I think it's sad for the skiers but I understand it." Being an Olympian was a very positive experience for Corcoran. "It meant a lot to me personally," he said. "I've come away from it with nothing but fond memories of the whole experience."
**NOTE: Tom Corcoran founded Waterville Valley Ski Resort in 1966 and served as executive director until 1990. He recently passed away at age 85 in June 2017.