Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie won gold medals at three consecutive Olympics. She later moved to Hollywood and, in 1939, was second only to Shirley Temple as America’s most popular actress.
One of the greatest figure skaters of all time, Henie was all of 11 years old when she traveled to her first Olympics in 1924 (where she finished eight in a field of eight). She earned gold in the three Olympics that followed. And won a record 10 consecutive world championships.
A born performer, Henie understood that a figure skating routine could be more than a haphazard series of jumps and spins—and she set about transforming the sport. She was the first skater to incorporate dance choreography into her routines and was the first to compete in costumes with hemlines cut above the knee.
After her last Olympics in 1936, Henie moved to Hollywood. She signed a contract with 20th Century Fox and appeared in a string of very successful movies that showcased her ice-cutting talents (while not stretching her limited acting abilities and Norwegian accent). She also found time to star in several traveling ice shows—popularizing and legitimizing this once shabby form of entertainment.
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