This week, we’re taking it back to the London and Melbourne Winter Games to look at the first American gold medalists in Alpine Skiing and Figure Skating.
1948, London – Alpine Skiing – Gretchen Fraser
A week before Fraser competed in slalom at the St. Moritz 1948 Olympic Winter Games, she had already become the first U.S. Olympian, male or female, to medal in an alpine skiing event when she took silver in women’s combined. When she earned slalom gold, it was the first Olympic gold medal won by any American in alpine skiing. Fraser’s road to the Olympics was a long one, as she missed out on the 1940 and 1944 Games that were cancelled due to World War II. An underdog in 1948, she shocked the world and became the most decorated U.S. athlete at those Games.
1956, Melbourne – Figure Skating – Tenley Albright
Albright began figure skating to regain her strength after an attack of polio; six years later she burst onto the scene, winning the Olympic silver medal in 1952 and going on to win five consecutive national championships (1952-1956). She won two world titles in 1953 and 1955 and, despite injuring her ankle two weeks before the Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956 Olympic Winter Games, went on to win gold.