An Olympic champion who helped to define the sport of figure skating.
Sonja Henie made her Olympic debut at the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924. At the time, she was only 11 years old and she had to punctuate her free skating routine with frequent visits to the sidelines to ask her coach what she should do next. She finished last, but she didn’t give up.
A sporting star
Henie improved rapidly and by 1926 she was able to place second in the World Championships. At the 1928 St Moritz Winter Games, Henie won gold by earning the first place votes of six of the seven judges. Henie repeated her victory in 1932, this time as the unanimous choice of the judges. Henie soon became so popular that, when she appeared, police had to be called out to control crowds in places as far apart as New York and Prague.
At the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Winter Games, the 23-year-old Henie earned her third gold medal. A week later, she won her tenth straight World Championship, setting a record that still has not been broken.
From skating to the silver screen
After completing her competitive career, Henie moved on to the movies, where she became one of Hollywood's most popular stars. Her films included Thin Ice (1937) and Sun Valley Serenade (1941). Henie also toured in spectacular ice shows that greatly increased the popularity of figure skating.