Friday 18 January 2013

Scandinavian Skating Sensation

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With her ruffled skirt, white boots and cloche hat, she glided across the ice.  The first to implement dance choreography, Sonja Henie won 3 Olympic championships, 6 European championships and 10 World championships.  She is the most decorated female figure skater in history.

At six years old, Sonja's Dad gave her a pair of skates for Christmas.  She strapped them on and never looked back.  Already known as an athlete in tennis, swimming and skiing. Sonja worn her first children's figure skating championship at 8 years of age.  She rose to the podium again at 10, this time as Norway's champion.  She would practise 7 hours a day, 7 days a week under trainers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and England.  Formally trained in ballet as a child, she incorporated her dance skills into her routine.

At 12 Sonja competed in her first Olympics.  In 1927 she won her first of 10 successive World Figure Skating Championships.  The following year she competed again at the Olympics, this time coming home with a gold medal around her neck.  In 1932 she repeated the feat.  Then in 1936 the Norwegian anthem played a third time as the dimple cheeked skater stood atop the podium.  Photographers snapped a picture of her shaking Adolf Hitler's hand, a photograph that she would display in her home during the Second World War, much to others' dismay.

Officially retiring from skating competition,   She declared that she "wanted to do with skates what Fred Astaire did with dancing" on the silver screen.  Her wish came true with the release of "One in a Million: in 1936 followed by several other skating pictures.  Her movies grossed 25 million dollars.

Sonja went on to star in several ice shows, including the Hollywood Ice Revues at Madison Square Garden.  She had high standards and would only allow one person to sharpen her skates, a man named Eddie Pec.  Once in Chicago she phoned Eddie in New York requesting he come to the windy city to sharpen her skates.  He obliged, hopping the next train, arriving in the city and sharpening her skates with his hand stone, only to return to New York immediately.

Sonja's demanding personality did not serve her well in marriage:  she married three times.  The fact that she travelled so frequently would not have lent itself well to settling down either.

She passed away in October of 1969 from leukemia.

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