Louisville Olympian shares insight into 1956 games - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville Olympian shares insight into 1956 games

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Don Rigazio Don Rigazio
Don Rigazio as a 1956 Winter Olympic athlete (Source: Don Rigazio) Don Rigazio as a 1956 Winter Olympic athlete (Source: Don Rigazio)
Don Rigazio's silver medal from the 1956 Winter Olympics. Don Rigazio's silver medal from the 1956 Winter Olympics.
Don Rigazio's 1956 Team USA jersey. Don Rigazio's 1956 Team USA jersey.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - An Olympic athlete, a member of the silver medal-winning United States ice hockey team at the 1956 Winter Olympics, is watching the games from his Louisville home. Don Rigazio, 79, shared insight about the sacrifices athletes endured 58 years ago just to compete in the games.

"What we got paid was $10.00 every other week to do our laundry, but it was an opportunity to represent your country," Rigazio said.

The former goaltender's silver medal is tucked away in corner cabinet.

He signed up to serve his country while training for the games.

"I volunteered for the draft so that I could play for the Olympic team," said Rigazio. "They knew that they could get us out on temporary duty."

In 1956, only amateurs were allowed to compete in the games.

"We had to sign a form, now this is ridiculous, but it said you never dreamed of being a professional athlete - can you imagine this now? I signed it, but my dream was to be a shortstop for the Boston Red Sox," Rigazio said.

The closest he'd come to a field of dreams was wearing a first baseman's mitt for a makeshift goaltender glove.

"When I played, I didn't have a mask or a helmet. And that was a baseball mitt I used on the ice," he said.

Rigazio had to modify his glove for the Olympics - a far cry from modern equipment and technology.

When the team placed second, folks back home may not have known.

"The scores didn't get back to the states until two days later," he said.

Rigazio would go on to play professional hockey in the late 1960's which would eventually bring him here.

"Our team, the Louisville Rebels, did well," said Rigazio. "We won the championship."

However, the salary couldn't pay the bills for a budding family so he retired from the sport at age 26. Now at 79, he has these words for those with goals of making it to the platform.

"It won't be easy - especially now. If they've got the desire, for it, they've got to try and work as hard as they can," Rigazio said. "You can't succeed if you don't try."

Rigazio tried his hand at owning a restaurant business and succeeded. He owns three Moby Dick locations across the metro.

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