Perhaps we can blame it on the 60-degree weather in Sochi, but the white stuff hasn’t been good to some of the athletes at these Winter Olympics so far. The U.S. experienced a major upset on Tuesday when world champion snowboarder Shaun White failed to medal in the half-pipe competition, a sport that Americans had invented and dominated since 1998. (And we thought Bob Costas’s pink eye was going to be the biggest drama of the Games.)
Regardless of some of the letdowns and challenges as of late, there have also been some inspiring victories. Take for instance Canadian freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau, who just won his second gold medal alongside his number one fan, his brother Frederic who has cerebral palsy. And there’s also the story of Canadian skiing mogul sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, who managed to medal gold and silver respectively.
At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the highest highs and the lowest lows are to be expected as athletes overcome harrowing obstacles, make thrilling moves, and fight for their places on the podium. This is the stuff legends are made of.
In honor of the Olympic spirit, here are five athletes who proved golden at previous Winter Games and live on as Olympic icons.
Sonia Henie – Figure Skater
Whether on the ice or the big screen, Sonja Henie made her mark as a figure skater. She competed in the very first Winter Olympics, in 1924, at the age of 11, and medaled in the subsequent three Olympics. After her retirement, the Norwegian went into a film career, where she often showcased her figure-skating talents in films opposite Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, and Glenn Miller. Henie died in 1969.
Jean-Claude Killy – Skier
In his home country of France, Jean-Claude Killy gained fame as the second skier ever to sweep the Alpine skiing events, winning gold medals in downhill, giant slalom, and slalom at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. Post Olympics, Killy went pro, signing numerous endorsement deals and went on to try his hand at auto racing and acting. He also took on roles in sports administration, joining the International Olympic Committee in 1995 and chairing the Coordination Commission for the Sochi games.
Dorothy Hamill – Figure Skater
It was the haircut that inspired countless moms of the late-‘70s and early-‘80s to shear it off above the chin, and this figure skater invented it. “The Dorothy Hamill wedge,” as it was called, was a simple bob that catapulted Hamill to icon status by the time she took home the gold from the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Besides the hair, Hamill was known for her trademark move on the ice, the “Hamill Camel,” which combined a camel spin and a sitting spin.
Bonnie Blair – Speed Skater
The most decorated woman in Winter Olympic history, Bonnie Blair took home six medals from 1988 to 1994. She was the first American to win five gold medals and was the only American to have six Winter Olympic medals until Apolo Anton Ohno came along more than a decade later. Blair skated with dominance, setting a world record of 39.10 seconds in the 500 meter race in 1988, and finishing by the largest margin of victory (1.38 seconds) ever in the 1000 meter race in 1994.
Apolo Anton Ohno – Speed Skater
Besting Bonnie Blair’s record for most medals won by a U.S. Winter Olympian, Apolo Anton Ohno has eight to his name. The speed skating superstar, also known for a winning turn on “Dancing With the Stars,” got into the sport at the age of 12, and perfected his game for years before making it onto the 2002 U.S. Olympic team, at the age of 20. He racked up the medals from the start, and after two more Olympics, broke the record.