8 remarkable figure skaters at the Olympic Winter Games
Figure skating in women’s singles was first held at the 1908 and 1920 Summer Games, four years before the first Winter Games in 1924. The sport is considered the most glamorous and popular at the Games, which served as a launching pad for post-Olympic careers for medalists. Here are eight notable female figure skaters at the Olympics:
1. 1928, ’32, ’36 Games: Sonja Henie, triple gold medalist
Henie, the Norwegian national champion, was just 11 when she competed in the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix, France. She was eighth out of eight skaters, often stopping during her free skating routine to ask her coach for instructions. But the last place did not stop her.
Henie, nicknamed the “Pavlova of Ice” for her ballet style, won gold at the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Games, making her the only woman to win three consecutive gold medals in singles figure skating. . She was also renowned for her state-of-the-art short skating outfit.
POST-OLYMPICS: Henie has become a famous Hollywood actress. His films have reportedly grossed $ 25 million.
2. 1956 Games: Tenley Albright overcomes serious injury
Less than two weeks before the Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Albright, who suffered from polio as a child, accidentally stabbed herself in the right ankle with the heel of his left skate during training.
READ MORE: History of the Winter Olympics
The American team doctor wanted to cut Albright’s skate, but she stopped him, the new York Times reported, “on the grounds that they were the only free skates she had and cost $ 85 a pair.” The 20-year-old spent 48 hours in the hospital, but was back on the ice a few days later.
In the Olympics final, Albright twisted his injured ankle while performing a double loop. But she won 10 of 11 first-place votes to become the first women’s skating gold medalist in the United States. “I was in a lot of pain, but I thought for four minutes that I could take it all,” she said afterwards.
POST-OLYMPICS: Albright retired from skating after the Olympics to attend Harvard Medical School – one of five women in a class of 135 – and became a renowned surgeon.
3. 1968 Games: Peggy Fleming skates in the heart of America
On the first full-color, live-action Games TV before a global audience, Fleming dazzled judges in Grenoble, France, with his elegant movement and ballet, winning the first voices of all nine of them. The 19-year-old won the only gold medal for the United States.
“Honey, you were wonderful,” Dorothy Fleming told her daughter as she left the ice in tears after her gold medal-winning performance. Peggy replied, “It’s so good to be done.”
The victory was emotional for Fleming, who was 12 when his coach, Bill Kipp, and the US figure skating team died in a plane crash en route to the 1961 World Championships.
Fleming also made headlines for his simple, Carthusian costume, made by his mother, who chose the shade because it resembled the color of Chartreuse Liqueur made in Grenoble.
POST-OLYMPICS: Flemish skated professionally and became a television sports commentator for the OIympics.
4. 1976 Games: Dorothy Hamill, “Which one of the West”
During his gold medal performance in Innsbruck, Austria, Hamill skated his signature “Hamill Camel”. Then, at the end, the audience sprayed the ice with flowers. But his last skate got off to a rough start.
Hamill cried when she spotted a sign in the crowd that read, “Which one from the West? Dorothy! She relaxed, however, when she realized that he was being held by friends. Rather than calling her a villain, the panel referred to a Cold War-era showdown between western skaters Hammill and Diane de Leeuw of the Netherlands against Christina Errath of East Germany.
After winning gold, Hamill cried again during the medal ceremony. “I couldn’t help myself,” she said. “It wasn’t because I finally won the medal. It was seeing the American flag go up and hearing the band play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.”
POST-OLYMPICS: Hamill, famous for a short, wedge-shaped haircut, has become a popular product endorser.
5. 1988 Games: Katarina Witt defeats Debi Thomas in Battle of the Carmens
In an epic showdown in Calgary, Canada, Katarina Witt, 22, of East Germany, a figure skating gold medalist in 1984, faced 20-year-old American Debi Thomas. The favorites chose to star on Bizet’s “Carmen”, making “The Battle of the Carmens” a must-see TV event.
But in the final, Thomas’ performance fell flat and Witt did it again as the gold medalist, the first consecutive women’s figure skating champion since Sonja Henie. By winning a bronze medal, Thomas became the first black athlete to win a medal at the Olympics. (Canadian Elizabeth Manley won the silver medal.)
Said Witt of Thomas: “She told me no one can beat her. But she’s no miracle and can make mistakes.”
“I think I learned a lot about life here,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “Not all Cinderella and perfect.”
POST-OLYMPICS: Witt has appeared in small film and television roles and posed nude for Playboy. Thomas became an orthopedic surgeon and then went through difficult times. In 2016, she was bankrupt and was living in a trailer.
6. 1992 Games: Kristi Yamaguchi breaks barriers
Combining elegance and athleticism, American Yamaguchi defeated Japan’s Midori Ito and her teammate Nancy Kerrigan to win gold in Albertville, France.
With the victory, Yamaguchi, whose mother was born in a WWII Japanese-American internment camp, became the first Asian American to win gold in the event and the second to win the first. place in any Olympic sport.
READ MORE: Japanese internment camps
On a 2020 “Time Machine” podcast, Yamaguchi said the post-Olympic outreach of the Asian American community made him appreciate the significance of his victory. “I also gained a greater appreciation for my family, my ancestors and everything they had gone through so that I could live the American Dream,” she said.
POST-OLYMPICS: Yamaguchi skated professionally, wrote books, became a sports broadcaster, and competed and won the sixth season of Dancing with the stars.
7. 1994 Games: Nancy Kerrigan overcomes attack
In 1994, Olympic figure skating dominated mainstream news and served as fodder for the tabloids when gold medal favorite Kerrigan was attacked during training at the United States national championships a month before the Games. . “Why? Why me?” Kerrigan cried after being hit above the knee with a metal baton.
With Kerrigan unable to perform at the national championships, Harding won the event, qualifying for the Olympics.
Days later, it was revealed that the attack was orchestrated by Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband. Kerrigan recovered in time to compete in the Games, and to avoid a lawsuit, the US Olympic Committee also allowed Harding to participate.
At the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, Kerrigan won silver, finishing behind Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul. Harding, who got an unusual request to restart his routine due to a broken skate lace, was eighth.
POST-OLYMPICS: Kerrigan became a professional skater, organized a Saturday Night Live and competed on Dancing with the stars. Harding pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct prosecution and was permanently banned from amateur skating and stripped of his national title. At a celebrity boxing event in 2002, she fought Paula Jones, who accused President Clinton of sexual misconduct.
8. 1998 Games: Tara Lipinski becomes youngest gold medalist
In Nagano, Japan, Lipinksi defeated gold medal favorite Michelle Kwan to become the youngest (15 years, 255 days) Olympic figure skating champion. After the short program, Lipinski followed Kwan, but his more technically difficult long program earned him higher scores and gold. Kwan won the silver.
A skater since the age of 6, Lipinski seemed destined for a medal from an early age. At the age of 2, she was standing on an upside-down Tupperware bowl, mimicking a televised 1984 Summer Olympics medal ceremony.
Even after the music for the national anthem stopped during the medal ceremony, Lipinski remained at attention on the podium. “I was a little sad knowing that I had to go down,” she said. “It was so good, so perfect.”
POST-OLYMPICS: Lipinski became a professional skater and endorser of products, earning millions.