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Great Skaters: Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss

Updated on August 31, 2014

Tenley Albright

After Sonja Henie had left the ice, American ladies figure skating dominated the international arenas as Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss won seven out of eight Worlds titles from 1953 to 1960.

Tenley Albright became the first woman to win the World Championships and an Olympics gold medal. Albright's triumph was remarkable one both on and off ice; Albright, while battling her severe polio, won U.S. Novice and Junior Championships, and won at sixteen her first U.S. Championships, which marked the start of her five consecutive U.S. Championships.

When Albright won Olympic silver medal in 1952, she was only seventeen. In the following year Albright seized the World Championship. It was in the 1956 Olympics that Albright finally grabbed gold medal beating her then biggest rival Carol Heiss, a rising star.

Tenley Albright in 1953


Carol Heiss: the most dominant champion since Sonja Henie

Carol Heiss was the most accomplished woman skater since Sonja Henie. No skater after Sonja Henie dominated the field like Carol Heiss.

After earned sliver medal in 1956 Olympics behind Albright Heiss quickly became the face of U.S. ladies figure skating. Heiss won five World titles in 1956 through 1960 and four U.S. titles in 1957 through 1960.

Heiss was a strong free skater. Carol Heiss' dominance culminated in the 1960 Olympics, where she won gold medal. As an incumbent World champion, Heiss charmed the global audience in the 1960 Olympics when the game was broadcasted on TV for the first time.

U.S. ladies success, led by Tenley Albirght and Carol Heiss, coincided with the advent of Dick Button whose technical proficiency breathed into American figure skating a spirit of freedom, style and innovation.

From 1950 to 1960, thanks to Albright and Heiss , American ladies figure skating ruled the world and left an indelible impact upon the history of figure skating. The European centered ladies figure skating since Sonja Henie ended; With Albright and Heiss, American ladies figure skating took over.

Carol Heiss in 1960

Peggy Fleming

A decade long dominance of U.S. ladies figure skating, led by Albright and Heiss, came to fruition with a name to remember in ladies figure skating history: Peggy Fleming, a household name in the 1960s. Fleming won five U.S. Championships titles and two World titles under her belt.

Peggy Fleming was an all-rounded skater, technically superior and artistically expressive with her own personal charm in fashion and style.

When Fleming won an Olympic gold medal in Grenoble, France in 1968, she dazzled the audience with her style and elegance. It was the 20 year old in her chartreuse dress skating to Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony that captured the audience and invoked the memory of the great Sonja Henie. With her unbeatable lead after the compulsory, Fleming's free skating in a live broadcast shot her into an international sensation.

Fleming's ice persona coupled with her balanced mastery in both disciplines made her the best representation of ladies figure skating. Like Sonja Henie whose visionary skating had far surpassed her own time and wowed the crowd with incomparable charisma, Peggy Fleming was a new definition of ice princess.

Peggy Fleming not only symbolized in the principle of ladies figure skating the ideal balance between compulsory discipline and free skating, but also proposed a persona with style and aesthetic presentation. With Fleming, whose balanced mastery of compulsory and of artistry rooted in her own elegance and style, ladies figure skating matured and completed to mark its historic zenith.

Peggy Fleming in 1967

Dorothy Hamill

Despite Janet Lynn had left an timeless legacy behind, people in her time often saw in her a failure as an ice queen. After all, neither an Olympic gold nor a World title was under her belt.

In the 1973 World Championships the competition was virtually offered for Lynn to win, but alas, the fate has it, Lynn fell twice and ended up with silver.

The long tradition of U.S. hegemony in ladies figure skating since the day of Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss seemed jinxed, but the heart-aching irony was quickly redeemed by a skater called Dorothy Hamill.

Born in 1956, Hamill with her wedge hair and monocratic pink dress perpetuated the image of American figure skating.

After winning silver in the U.S. Junior Championships in 1970 under the tutorage of Carlo Fassi, Hamill quickly became a darling to American public. Hamill was short-sighted, and often her squinting toward the scoreboard in kiss and cry zone as her coach Fassi read aloud for her, became an endearing sight in those days.

By the time of 1976 Olympics , Hamill was already a headliner with her much talked hair style. Hamill did well in the compulsories unlike Lynn, and her skating was powerful, fast, accurate, yet artistically proficient and balanced. Her 1976 Olympic victory was shared by and celebrated with millions of Americans.

Dorothy Hamill won an Olympic gold and a World title and won U.S. Championships in 1974 through 1976, and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Dorothy Hamill in 1967

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