Hailing from a well-to-do family in Connecticut, Jennison Heaton and his brothers Jack and Trowbridge spent their childhood years in Europe and frequently holidayed in the Alps. They discovered the joys of winter sports on the legendary Cresta Run in St Moritz, the track on which British tourists invented the sport of bobsleigh in the 1870s.
The run was used at the 1928 Winter Games, hosting tobogganing’s first appearance on the Olympic programme and its last until the return of the Games to the Swiss resort in 1948. The sport was then dropped again, only making its return in 2002, by which time it had become universally known as skeleton.
Jennison and Jack both entered the 1928 competition and felt right at home on their beloved Cresta Run. The event was held on 17 February, one day later than planned, and began with Jennison dominating the first two runs, with his sibling right behind him. Though Jack went fastest in the third and final run, Jennison was only 0.4 seconds adrift, giving him overall victory from his brother by a second. Completing the podium was Great Britain’s David Carnegie, the 10th Earl of Northesk.|
The following day Jennison Heaton headed out on to St Moritz’s other track in the five-man USA I bob, with David Granger, Lyman Hime, Thomas Doe and Jay O’Brien behind him. Though only eighth-fastest on the first run, nearly three seconds off the pace set by his teenage compatriot Billy Fiske in USA II, the tobogganing gold medallist was lightning quick on the second, posting the best time to claim the silver behind Fiske.
As fate would have it, Jennison went on to marry Fiske’s sister, Beulah, with the Heaton brothers then cementing their passion for the Cresta Run by founding the Heaton Cup, a prestigious competition that is still held today on the St Moritz track.The Heatons’ successful association with the Olympics would continue, with Jack winning bronze in the two-man bob at Lake Placid 1932 and returning to St Moritz in 1948 to win another tobogganing silver at the age of 39, fully 20 years after the memorable one-two he achieved with his brother.