Women of The Golden Skate: Women Single Figure Skating Olympic Gold Winners
With the Olympics right around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to take a brief look at the seven American Women have won figure skating gold.
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With the Winter Olympics just around the corner there is a lot of talk regarding how weak the American Women’s figure skating team looks. While it may be true that since the modern winter Olympics inception in 1924, that U.S. Women have seemed to consistently made a strong showing in the sport, they haven’t always won the cold. In fact, only 7 American Women have struck gold in singles figure skating in the Olympics 86 year history. Here is a little information on those women with the golden skates.
Tenley Albright suffered from polio as a young child. The doctors were not sure if she would ever walk again, but against the odds she did. She began skating as a way to help strengthen her legs and went on to become the first American woman to win a gold medal in figure skating at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
Unlike other Olympic skaters who went on to skate professionally, Ms. Albright chose to retire from skating after the 1956 season and went on to attend Radcliffe and then Harvard Medical School. She became a surgeon.
Carol Hess Jenkins
Carol Hess Jenkins began skating at the age of 6. She won the silver medal in the 1956 Olympics coming in second to her team mate Tenley Albright. After her silver medal win Hess had many offers to turn professional but turned them down because her mother who was suffering from cancer wanted to see her daughter win Olympic gold.
Carol granted her mothers wish in the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California having been ranked first by all 9 judges. She also had the honor at those Olympics of taking the Olympic oath on behalf of all the athletes.
Carol had a fairly short lived professional career skating in ice shows before retiring from the skating world in 1962. However, she would reemerge in the late 70’s to coach a new generation of Olympic hopefuls.
Peggy Fleming, is a remarkable athlete, Having lost her skating coach in a 1961 plane crash when he was killed along with the entire team headed to the World Figure skating championships, she began skating under Carlo Fossi. In 1968, she not only became the third American woman in history to win the gold medal in singles skating, she was also the only one from the United States to win a gold metal at all in the Grenoble, France Olympics.
Turning professional she made many guests appearances skating for the ice follies and has been a ABC sports broadcaster for over 20 years. Peggy Fleming has also skated before 4 presidents and is a breast cancer survivor.
Dorthy Hamill began ice skating at the age of 8, using a hand me down pair of skates from her older siblings that were so large Dorthy’s grandmother had to stuff the toes to help keep them from falling off.
She would go on to win the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria and then professionally skate as a member of the Ice Capades from 1977 until 1984. In 1993, when the Ice Capades began failing financially Hamill would buy it and try to rebuild it into the show it once was, but being unsuccessful resold it in 1995. The spin she invented during her Olympic training years, known as the Hamill Camel is still used by figure skaters today.
Following Dorthy Hamill’s Olympic gold the eighties would pass with no American woman winning the gold metal in figure skating.
Kristi Yamagouchi began skating as a child for physical therapy for club feet, that therapy eventually turned into her starting a career in as a pairs skater with Rudy Galindo. Kristi eventually made the decision to concentrate on singles skating. In 1992 she traveled to the Olympic games in Albertville, Canada with team mates Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, there she would take the gold medal.
Kristi went on to skate professionally for the next ten years and has also had the distinction of being the first woman to drop the green flag at the Indy 500 and in 2008 she became the celebrity Champion on Dancing With Stars.
Kristi also established the “Always Dream” foundation for children. This foundation gives grants to organizations that have a positive effect on children and their lives.
Tara Lipinski would become the youngest individual gold medalist in winter Olympic history with her winning performance at the 1998 games held in Nagano, Japan beating out Michelle Kwan by a narrow margin. She was just fifteen years old.
In a hurry to start her professional career Lipinski begged out of the rest of the 1998 season to begin a pro career. Her career was short lived however, as a series of injuries made skating on a competive level impossible.
Tara then turned to attention to acting and has had some small roles on television.
Sara Hughes was the last American woman figure skater to strike gold. In 2002, In Salt Lake City, Utah, Sara finished fourth in short program. Knowing that unless one of the top three competitors made a major mistake in their long program she would never gain the podium Sara was able to relax and skated a stunning long program herself.
To her surprise and the surprise to the millions of those who tuned into the 2002 Winter games, all three of the leading competitors made major errors in their long programs. Sara, believing she might just medal after all waited while the winners of the competition were announced. For those watching the game, it was a heart warming and surprising moment when this young lady realized she won the gold and expressed her exuberance for all the world to see.
Sara has since went on to graduate from Yale University.
While I personally feel that every athlete that even makes it to the Olympics is a champion, these 7 woman, all for the most part have over the years won the hearts of the American people as they skated their way to fame and the gold medal. These women deserve to be remembered for their poise, style, grace and wonderful athletic ability.
Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia