U.S. Women’s Olympic Figure Skating Champions- Skater Medalists 1920-1980 (With Videos)

Figure Skating has existed as an Olympic sport since 1908, but was included in the Summer Olympics until 1924. In 1924 Figure Skating was moved to the Winter Olympics, which were held that year in Chamonix, France. The U.S. has garnered a total of 23 medals for Women’s Figure Skating, earned by 18 U.S. female skaters. In this hub, I will introduce U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Olympic Champions from 1920 through 1980. My next installment will finish up with U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Olympic Champions from 1984 through 2006.

U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Olympic Champions included in this hub:

Theresa Weld

Beatrix Loughran

Maribel Vinson

Tenley Albright

Carol Heiss

Barbara Roles

Peggy Fleming

Janet Lynn

Dorothy Hamill

Linda Fratianne

 

Linda Fratianne's 1980 Silver medal and Dorothy Hamill's 1976 Gold medal.
Linda Fratianne's 1980 Silver medal and Dorothy Hamill's 1976 Gold medal. | Source

Theresa Weld

Theresa Weld and Nathaniel Niles

Theresa Weld, 1920 Bronze

 

 

Theresa Weld Blanchard was born in 1983 and passed away in 1978.  She won 6 gold medals in the U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Championships.  She competed in the Olympics 3 times, winning the bronze medal in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium, becoming the first U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Olympian. 

 

 

She was also a pairs skater with Nathaniel Niles.  They won at nationals 9 times, and competed in the Olympics three times, but did not medal. 

 

Beatrix Loughran, 1924 Silver, 1928 Bronze

 

Beatrix Loughran was born in 1900 and passed away in 1975.  She won the silver medal in 1924 Olympics in Chamonix, France and the bronze medal in the 1928 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland in women’s figure skating.  She was a 3 time national champion.  She was a pairs skater with Sherwin Badger.  They won the silver medal in the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.  They were 3 time national champions.  She is the only American to earn 3 figure skating Olympic medals. 

Maribel Vinson, 1932 Bronze

 

Maribel Yerxa Vinson-Owen was born in 1911.  She won 9 U.S. Women’s National Championships in figure skating, and the bronze medal in the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.  She won 2 national championships for pairs skating with Thornton Coolidge and 4 championships with George Hill.  She subsequently coached figure skating.  She was killed in a plane crash in 1961, when accompanying her daughter on a trip to Prague, Czechoslovakia for World Championships.  The entire U.S. Figure Skating Team perished. 

Tenley Albright, 1952 Silver, 1956 Gold

 

 

Tenley Emma Albright was born in 1935.  She was our first U.S. Olympic gold medalist in women’s figure skating, picking up the gold in the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.  She won the silver medal in the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Norway.  She won 5 U.S. National Championships and 2 World Championships. 

 

After her 1956 Olympic win, she retired from skating and returned to college.  She graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1961, and subsequently became a surgeon.  She married Gerald Blakely, former owner of the Ritz-Carlton. 

 

Carol Heiss Performance in 1956

Carol Heiss, 1956 Silver, 1960 Gold

 

Carol Elizabeth Heiss Jenkins was born in 1940.  She won the silver medal at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and the gold at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. 

 

She was World Champion for Women’s Figure Skating 5 times. 

 

Heiss was known as an athletic skater, and the first female to land a double axel.  One of her trademark maneuvers was a series of single axel jumps, alternating clockwise and counterclockwise.  She rotated jumps clockwise and did her spins counterclockwise.  More commonly, skaters do both counterclockwise. 

 

In 1961 she starred in Snow White and the Three Stooges. 

 

She married 1956 Men’s Figure Skating Olympic gold medalist, Hayes Alan Jenkins.  Jenkins’ brother David won the gold in the 1960 Olympics. 

 

Heiss retired from skating, but returned to start coaching in the late 70s. 

 

Barbara Roles, 1960 Bronze

 

Barbara Ann Roles Pursley Williams was born in 1941.  She won the bronze medal in the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley California.  She retired from skating and had her first child.  After the 1961 plane crash that killed the entire U.S. Figure Skating Team, she was asked to return to skating which she did, winning gold in the 1962 U.S. Figure Skating Championship.  She had her son later that year.  She subsequently took up coaching and has worked with successful figure skaters. 

1968 Olympics

1986 Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show with Robin Cousins

Peggy Fleming Breast Cancer Survivor

Peggy Fleming, 1968 Gold

 

 

Peggy Gail Fleming was born in 1948.  When she was 12 her coach, William Kipp was killed in the 1961 plane crash with the rest of the U.S. Figure Skating Team.  She was then coached by Carlo Fassi. 

 

Fleming won 5 U.S. women’s figure skating titles and 3 World titles. 

 

She won the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France, the only gold medal for the U.S. that year.  Her Olympic victory marked the return to dominance of U.S. women’s figure skaters, who have medaled in every Winter Olympics since. 

 

After the Olympics, Fleming toured with the Ice Follies for several years.  She has skated for 4 U.S. presidents.  In 1993 she was named the 3rd most popular athlete in the U.S. 

 

She has been an ABC TV figure skating commentator for over 20 years, including some of the Olympic Figure Skating competitions.  She appeared as a judge in the movie, Blades of Glory. 

 

In 1970, Fleming married former ice dancer, Greg Jenkins, now a dermatologist, with whom she has 2 sons and 3 grandsons. 

 

Fleming is a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 1998 and successfully treated.  She has been vocal in advocacy for breast cancer and osteoporosis.  Profits from Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery’s Victories Rosé go to breast cancer research charities. 

 

1972 Olympics

Janet Lynn, 1972 Bronze

 

 

Janet Lynn Nowicki was born in 1953.  She skated under the name “Janet Lynn” because “Nowicki” was constantly misspelled and mispronounced.  She was among the first female ice skaters to successfully perform the salchow and triple toe jumps.  

 

She won the won the bronze medal in the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan

 

Though she won 5 U.S. championships, the World Championship and Olympic gold eluded her.  This was largely due to her poor compulsory scores.  The compulsory skates were not typically televised, and therefore poorly understood by the public.  Lynn enjoyed good public support, who were displeased to see Lynn place behind less exciting skaters.  Lynn is credited, at least in part, with International Skating Union’s move away from compulsories and the addition of the figure skating short program.  

 

1976 Olympics

2009 Cancer Benefit Performance

Dorothy Hamill, 1976 Gold

 

 

Dorothy Stuart Hamill was born in 1956.  She won the 1976 Olympic gold medal for Women’s Figure Skating in Innsbruck, Austria.  She is a 3 time U.S. Figure Skating Champion, and one time World Champion. 

 

Hamill is credited with originating the “Hamill Camel”, a camel spin evolving into a sit spin.  She set off a world-wide sensation with her much-copied wedge haircut. 

 

Hamill headlined the Ice Capades from 1977 through 1984.  In 1993 she tied with Mary Lou Retton for most popular athlete in America.  Hamill has written 2 autobiographies. 

 

She is twice divorced, with one daughter.  Her first husband, Dean Paul Martin, son of Dean Martin was a successful tennis player and actor.  Martin was an officer in the California Air National Guard, and perished in an F4 crash in 1987. 

 

Hamill still skates, including Broadway on ice.  She went public with her breast cancer diagnosis in 2008 and advocates a plant-based diet to decrease risk factors for diseases. 

 

Mannheim Steamroller - The Christmas Angel: A Story on Ice
Mannheim Steamroller - The Christmas Angel: A Story on Ice

Featuring figure skaters Chip Davis, Dorothy Hamill, Elvis Stojko, and Rudy Galindo

 

Linda Fratianne, 1980 Silver

 

 

Linda Sue Fratianne was born in 1960.  She won a silver medal in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.  She was a 4 time U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Champion, and 2 time World Champion. 

 

Fratianne was the first women’s figure skater to successfully execute 2 kinds of triple jumps, the triple toe jump and salchow. 

 

Like Janet Lynn, Fratianne lost many titles due to lower compulsory scores than less exciting skaters.  Supporters feel she was “robbed” of the gold in 1980.  Fratianne is credited with the start of glamorous costumes in Women’s Figure Skating. 

 

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11 comments

The Rope profile image

The Rope 6 years ago from SE US

One of my favorite Olympic winter sport events to follow. Thanks for putting this together! A walk down memory lane is always appreciated.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Thanks for reading Rope. I remember watching Peggy Fleming on TV with my dad. She's the first figure skater that I remember.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Terrific hub, I especially enjoyed the clips with Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill, and the interesting bio info. Thank you!


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Great to "see" you Paradise. Let us know if you leave for Haiti!

I saw Dorothy Hamill on the Today Show yesterday. She is working with head injured children at Kennedy Kreiger (where I did my graduate clinicals) in Baltimore. She gets the kids on the ice, whether on her back, or with their walkers, giving them a feeling of freedom and movement.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

rmcrayne, I adored watching these snippets of the 'old' Olympics. I skated in the 80's on a local level and knew I would stay there. Never even dreamed-well maybe a little-of such accomplishments. Figure skating is HARD!!!


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Thanks lorlie. It's so cool to have comments by a "real skater"! I tried ice skating once. Pretty much knew it was my 1st and last time! Love your comment about how HARD it is, because my sister and I sometimes joke that ice skating is impossible- it's all trickery!


Ohma profile image

Ohma 6 years ago

Vey nice. I love figure skating. It is a great pleasure to see how it has grown through the years!


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Yes Ohma, the costumes, and routines are so sophisticated now!


Greensleeves34 profile image

Greensleeves34 6 years ago from Southern California

This is by far my most favorite sport! Thanks for the great hub!


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 6 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Thanks for visiting Greensleeve. I agree, but I do also enjoy gymnastics in the Summer Olympics.


rmcrayne profile image

rmcrayne 5 years ago from San Antonio Texas Author

Thanks for your support bill.

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