The Winter Olympics- Youngest Gold Medalists and Competitors

Olympic torch and fireworks display. Opening Ceremony of Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
Olympic torch and fireworks display. Opening Ceremony of Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 | Source

Age is No Barrier

There are certain sports in both the Summer and Winter Olympics where age doesn't seem to be a barrier especially at the lower end of the scale. In sports like swimming and ski jumping many competitors are in their mid teens, however in gymnastics and figure (ice) skating successful competitors regularly seem to be in their early or even pre teens.

In this article I discuss some of the youngest competitors and Gold Medalists in Figure Skating at the Winter Olympic Games.

"I want to do with skates what Fred Astaire is doing with dancing."

– Sonja Henie

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Sonja Henie

Sonja Henie remains one of the most well known names in Winter Olympic and ice figure skating history. Sonja was born in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway on April 8, 1912.

At six years of age Sonja's father Wilhelm, a former world cycling champion and now a successful fur trader,gave his young daughter a pair of ice skates and hired world-famous Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina with instructions to turn Sonja into a sporting celebrity. At the age of just 11 years Sonja competed in the first-ever Winter Olympics held at Chamonix, France in 1924. Although she showed glimpses of potential during her routine Sonja finished last out of a field of eight competitors.

Despite this disappointment success was imminent, and Sonja Henie would soon dominate women's figure skating for more than a decade. In 1927 she won the first of ten consecutive World Championships, and the following year, as a 15 year old, won the first of her three Olympic gold medals. She is credited with being the first to incorporate ballet moves into a skating routine.

After retiring from figure skating in 1936 Sonja moved to Hollywood to pursue a film career and enjoyed some success as an actress starring in movies such as: One in a Million (1936), a musical. The following year she starred opposite Tyrone Power in the romantic comedy Thin Ice, and Happy Landing (1938) with Don Ameche. In 1941, Henie co-starred with Glenn Miller in the musical Sun Valley Serenade. In most of her roles she played an ice skater or a character in possession of those skills.

She also had a thriving career with her own touring show, known as the Hollywood Ice Revue and continued to tour the world until the mid-1950s.

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Dick Button

Richard Totten "Dick" Button was born July 18, 1929 at Englewood, New Jersey and is widely considered to be one of the best skaters of all time.

Though he had won the US figure skating crown the previous year, after finishing second in the 1947 world figure skating championship, 17 year old Dick Button was prompted to become more artistically daring. By the time the 1948 Winter Olympics came around, the young American sensation was ready to dazzle the world.

During the free skate event he attempted two routines never seen on the ice before, the double axel and the camel jump. Button had been attempting the double axel jump in practice but had never landed it. In practice on the day before the free skating event, he landed one in practice for the first time so put it into his free skate for the next day. Button landed it and the camel jump, becoming the first skater in the world to do so. The judges were impressed, and Dick Button became the youngest male figure skating Gold Medalist in Winter Olympic history.

1948 was a golden year for Button as he became the only man in history to complete the "figure skating grand slam", Olympic gold, United States, North American, European and World titles. He went on to successfully defend his Olympic crown in Oslo, Norway in 1952, and won every competition he entered for the rest of his competitive career.

Later Dick Button worked as an actor performing in movie roles such as The Young Doctors starring Fredric March, and The Bad News Bears Go To Japan starring Tony Curtis. he also did many tv appearances such as Skating With The Stars by the producers of Dancing With The Stars and became an Emmy Award winning sports commentator covering many figure skating championships and Winter Olympic games.


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Tara has since turned to acting and has had numerous roles including:

  • Malcolm In The Middle (Carrie)
  • What's New, Scooby Doo (Camp Counselor Grey)
  • Still Standing (Sarah)
  • 7th Heaven (Christine)
  • The Young And The Restless (Marnie Kowalski)
  • Touched By An Angel (Alex Thorp)
  • Ice Angel (Tracy Hannibal)- TV Movie

Tara Lipinski

Tara Lipinski was born on June10, 1982 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in Sugarland, Texas. She was already an accomplished roller skater by the time she tried on her first pair of ice skates at age six. Tara first attracted international attention when she qualified for the United States team at the 1996 world championships at 13 years of age.She only finished 15th, but the following year she caused a sensation when she became the youngest world champion in figure skating history.

When the 1998 Nagano, Japan Winter Olympic Games came around, Lipinski was tipped for the silver medal behind Michelle Kwan who had beaten Tara in the 1998 world championship. Kwan led after the first routine but Lipinski overtook her by the end and at the age of 15 years and 255 days, Lipinski became the youngest winner of an individual event in the history of the Winter Games, beating Sonja Henie's 70-year-old record by two months.

By April the same year, Tara Lipinski had announced that she was turning professional. In the spring and summer of 1998, Lipinski toured with Champions On Ice. She then toured with Stars On Ice for four seasons. Lipinski appealed to a younger audience, attracting new fans to what had traditionally been an adult-oriented show. Her signing to Stars on Ice was a coup for the tour.

Lipinski's most notable individual victory as a professional came at the 1999 World Professional Figure Skating Championship at age 17, she became the youngest person to win that event. However her professional skating career was hampered by a series of hip injuries.

Sochi Winter Olympics 2014

Figure skating

Breaking News Sat Feb 8 2014

The Russian 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaya has just brought the house down – literally – with a sensational performance in the ladies’ team short program. Even the BBC commentators were applauding.

The diminutive 15-year-old Russian figure skater positioned herself to become the darling of the Sochi Games after a great routine during Saturday's team event. Lipnitskaia scored a 72.90 to record the highest total among individual women skaters. The home crowd roared when the 2014 European champion was finished.

It may be too early to tell as these games are still in progress and the gold medals for this and other figure skating events are yet to be decided, but based on the above performance Yulia Lipnitskaya could be the next 15 year old and possibly the youngest yet to win a Winter Olympic gold medal. She almost didn't qualify for selection only making the minimum age requirement just days before the selection cut off.

Which event do you prefer to watch?

  • The Summer Olympics
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  • Neither, I am not into sport
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38 comments

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

What a nice review of some of our favorites. Skating is one of my favorite Olympic draws.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Awesome recap of those great ice figure skating favorites. I just love to watch them skate and ice figure skating is one of my favorite to watch during the Winter Olympics.

Up and more and sharing.

Have a great Sunday,

Faith Reaper


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 2 years ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

John, thanks for this article. I don't have a television where I am staying at the moment (Philadelphia) so I am missing the games. I can imagine this young lady is making Russia proud and fans around the world happy.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Flourish and Faith. Yes figure skating is my favourite event at the Winter Olympics too. It is just so graceful and beautiful to watch. I hope you enjoy the current Winter Olympics. I appreciate your comments, vote up and shares.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Cam, yes I watched her routine and was blown away how someone so young could have that much ability. Her score was about 20 points higher than the next highest competitor. You should have heard and seen the amazed applause. Pity you can't get to see these games. USA are doing well as usual. The Aussies are hopeful of getting three medals I think at best.


kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 2 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

I love figure skating; it is so nice to see the prowess of those athletes. It's like ballet but with a flow. I didn't had the chance to watch so much yeat but figure skating is by far my favorite event!

What is incredible as well is to see how things evolve through time. You mentioned Dick Button and his double axel and the camel jump. With that, he opened the possibilities for the next generations of skaters to go further.

I am curious to see if Julia Lipnitskaya will become the youngest to receive a gold medal!

Have a great week!

PS : I just want to let you know that there is a little mistake in the date of birth of Sonja Henie


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I don't know why but I much prefer the Winter Olympics. It's not like I ski or anything, but I think they are just much more beautiful. I hope you had a great weekend John.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your wonderful comment Joelle, they are amazing athletes. The amount of practice and training involved must be incredible, especially the pairs. (Thanks for the tip, Sonja Henie would certainly have been the youngest medal winner at only two years old)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your comment Bill. The Winter Olympic athletes seem to have a different attitude. Even if they lose they seem to be all smles, just happy to have competed. They make it look like fun. Yes had a good weekend thanks.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Hi Jodah;

I love ice skating, and am now glued to the screen in hopes of catching all of the 2014 Olympic events in a timely manner. I also love Ice Dancing, and was lucky enough to watch Torvill and Dean skate , live, one year. (They truly advanced this beautiful discipline into an art form.) You have described past Olympic winners quite well. I had no idea that Tara was now acting. Julia is absolutely amazing. She is quite young and will no doubt lose some of that agility, but her technical ability is stunning. She will also develop her artistic expression as she matures. Excellent hub. Voted up and shared. :-)


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

Jodah this was great. I enjoyed the videos very much. I was disappointed hearing about Sonja's connection with Hitler. I hope it is just gossip. I am a big fan of ice skating. The winter olympics are my favorite. Thank you for sharing a most interesting hub..


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Hi Jodah. This is a fantastic article. You have enhanced it nicely with the photos and videos. I really enjoyed reading it and learning about the skaters. Well done, Jodah. Thanks for providing a great informational hub on this sport I love so much.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

I'm glad you enjoyed this hub Genna. Yes it is a beautiful sport as is the ice dancing. Torvil and Dean took it to a new level and it would have been amazing to see them live. There have been wonderful couples performing at this Olympics too. Once again I was impressed by the Russian team. Enjoy the rest of the games and thank you for the vote up and share.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading always exploring. Glad you enjoyed it. In photos of Sonja being congratulated by Hitler he seemed much more very enthusiastic than you would expect towards a non-German but I suppose she was blond and blue eyed. However it is probably just rumour about any other connection, I'm not sure. I hope you are enjoying the ice skating at the current Olympics.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Phyllis, I'm glad I chose a sport that appealed to you and others. It is the most beautiful to watch. Thank you for your kind comments as well, and I hope you enjoy watching the figure skating at Sochi.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I love anything about this, it is such fun isn't it and something we so wish we had done! They all look so beautiful and wear their feeling on their sleeve so we just have to love them. A great hub choice. ^


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Jackie. I needed to write a hub about the Winter Olympics while it was still happening. It was too difficult to cover it as a whole and give each sport the attention it deserved, so I chose the one I believe to be the most beautiful and graceful, and the "youngest medalists" wasn't 't too difficult to find information on. Glad you enjoyed this.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Great review of these champs. Thanks for filling us in, I have had little time to watch!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for your kind comment rebecca.I've had more tme on my hands than usual so have been watching a bit. No Aussie medals yet, but snow and ice sports aren't our forte.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

Nice group. I didn't realize how young they were.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks mylindaelliott, yes they were young. There have been others competing at very young ages but most haven't been able to win medals. Julia Lipnitskaya has just won the long routine of the team event since I wrote this, giving Russia an unasailable lead. I don't know if she is competing in any individual events. I just have to wait and see.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I just watched Julia Lipnitskaya skate about half an hour ago in an Olympics recap. (The program's still on as I'm typing this.) Her performance was very impressive. She was very confident for someone so young! Thanks for an interesting hub, Jodah. Figure skating is one of my favourite events in the Winter Olympics.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

It was a pleasure to write this Alica, thanks for reading and your kind comment. Yes Julia sure is impressive.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

I actually never got into the winter/summer Olympics, and don't expect to, but it warms my heart to see the passion for sports.. bless you bro


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

It's not everyone's cup of tea Frank, but some people live and breath sport. Thanks for reading.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Winter Olympics- Youngest Gold Medalists this is an impressive start so young and so vibrant.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for reading and commenting DDE.


sujaya venkatesh profile image

sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

a very apt hub for the season jo


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks sujaya


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for sharing this inspiring stories. I remember Tara Lipinski's story because I lived in Texas at that time. The Olympics brings out the best in the athletes and the best of their supporters towards them. Voted Up!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading and the vote up MsDora, your comments are spot on. It does bring out the best in everyone it seems.


mbuggieh 2 years ago

Sport and age are related.

I was watching curling last night, and interestingly, the commentary was about how YOUNG the US Curling Team is and how disadvantaged this makes them in this particular sport.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

I love watching figure skating.

Jodah Robin replied to you Question through my Skype but I could not find your email address on hubs.

This is from Robin's hub address ( http://robinbeck.hubpages.com/)

Yes we have heard of Xlibris. It is not specifically Australian, but is worldwide. We have had some doubtful reports on them. They are very commercial so you are unlikely to get much personal attention. Our package ) is $500.00 and this includes a poster design, a FaceBook banner and professional cover design.

If you don't want some aspects then price will be reduced accordingly. We don't mind including colour pics as needed. We can upload to all the major channels, but would want you to set up accounts first. This way you get 100% of the revenue and we do not have to manage it or take any commission from sales.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Somehow I lost my previous comments? Great hub on ice skating. Love to watch it.

After I pasted your question into Skype for Robin, this below was his reply

Yes we have heard of Xlibris. It is not specifically Australian, but is worldwide. We have had some doubtful reports on them. They are very commercial so you are unlikely to get much personal attention. Our package ) is $500.00 but this includes a poster design, a FaceBook banner and professional cover design.

If you don't want some aspects then price will be reduced accordingly. We don't mind including colour pics as needed. We can upload to all the major channels, but would want you to set up accounts first. This way you get 100% of the revenue and we do not have to manage it or take any commission from sales.

http://hubpages.com/@robinbeck


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading mbugieh, strange how they associate either being too young or too old in certain sports. If curling is like lawn bowls, that sport is being taken over by a younger brigade(international competition anyway) and the older bowlers are having trouble matching it.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your trouble and that info Nadine. I am not going with publishing at the moment but I just wanted to be properly informed before I do decide to. Xlibris were getting a little pushy after I said I wasn't interested is all. Oh my email address is at the end of my profile blurb. Thanks again.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Loved this Jodah--but then I love figure skating and my husband suffers through it with me--


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Haha Audrey...your poor hubby. My wife and I actually both like to watch figure skating. I think we'd love to be able to do it...unbelievably graceful. Anyway glad you enjoyed this. Thanks.

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