Sonja Henie was born on April 8, 1912, in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway. She debuted as an Olympic figure skater at the first Winter Games in 1924, when she was only 11. Two years later, she won second place at the world championships. She brought home the gold medal in 1928 and again in 1932 and 1936. After retiring from competitive skating, Henie became a film star. She died on October 12, 1969, en route to Oslo.
Born Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway, on April 8, 1912, figure-skating legend Sonja Henie won 10 world championships and three Olympic gold medals during her illustrious career. She grew up wealthy as the daughter of a successful furrier. Henie studied ballet for a time, but she discovered her true passion at age 6. She learned how to ice skate with help from her brother Leif.
Before long, Henie began to excel at the sport. She was only 10 years old when she won the Norwegian championship. In 1923, Henie made her first appearance in Olympic competition in 1923. She failed to medal this time around, but she would soon dominate the sport.
In 1927, Henie won her first World Figure Skating Championship. She was only 15 years old when she competed at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. There Henie won her first gold medal. The teenager quickly became a leading force in the world of figure skating, winning the world championships 10 years in a row.
Henie also seemed unbeatable in the Olympics. She took home her sport's top prize in the 1932 Olympics held at Lake Placid, New York, and again at the 1936 Olympics, which took place in the Bavarian towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen. During the 1936 games, Henie met infamous German leader Adolf Hitler. Just a week after her third Olympic victory, she won her 10th and final world championship.
Film and Sports Star
Retiring from competition in 1936, Henie moved to the United States. The petite, platinum blonde sports star found some success in Hollywood. She made her Hollywood film debut in One in a Million (1936), a musical that showcased her figure-skating talents. The following year, Henie starred opposite Tyrone Power in the romantic comedy Thin Ice. She played another ice skater in Happy Landing (1938) with Don Ameche.
In 1941, Henie co-starred with Glenn Miller in the musical Sun Valley Serenade. She also had a thriving career with her own touring show, known as the Hollywood Ice Revue. Henie and her troupe performed around the world for years. By the mid-1950s, she had hung up her skates and stopped touring.
Officially retired by 1960, Henie pursued her interest in art. She had developed a substantial collection during her lifetime, which she donated to a public trust along with the works held by her third husband, Niels Onstad. (She had been previously married to American businessman Dan Topping and to Winthrop Gardner.) The pair also helped establish the Henie Onstad Art Centre, which opened near Oslo in 1968.
In early 1969, Henie discovered that she had leukemia. She kept her disease a secret until her death on October 12. Henie passed away during a flight between Paris and Oslo. She is still remembered today as one of figure skating's early superstars.
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