QUEEN OF ICE
Sonja Henie was born in Kristiania, current Oslo, the daughter of Wilhelm Henie, a one-time World Cycling Champion and a prosperous Norwegian fur trader. Her father hired the best experts in the world, including the famous Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina, to transform his daughter into a sporting celebrity.
Sonja Henie lived temporarily at Finse in Norway´s first indoor skating-rink to practice for her three Olympic gold medals. She took the gold medal in the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympics. She first placed eighth in a field of eight at the 1924 Winter Olympics, at the age of eleven. During the 1924 program, she skated over to the side of the rink several times to ask her coach for directions.
But by the next Olympiad, she needed no such assistance. Henie won the first of an unprecedented ten World Figure Skating Championships in 1927 at the age of fifteen, and her first Olympic gold medal the following year. She also won six consecutive European championships. She is credited with being the first figure skater to adopt the short skirt costume in figure skating, and make use of dance choreography.
Her innovative skating techniques and glamourous demeanor transformed the sport permanently and confirmed its acceptance as a legitimate sport in the Winter Olympics. Henie became so popular with the public that police had to be called out for crowd control on her appearances in various disparate cities such as Prague and New York. She was also an accomplished tennis player.
After the 1936 Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, she gave up her amateur status and took up a career as a professional performer in acting and live shows. She mostly performed in the United States, but had triumphant shows in Norway in 1953 and 1955.
||After turning professional, in 1936, Henie went to Hollywood and delighted audiences with her skating, charm and lilting accent in 13 films. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
THREE-TIME OLYMPIC CHAMPION
In 1938 she published her autobiography, which was republished in a revised edition in 1954. In 1941, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States. She retired from acting in 1958 with the film Hello, London. She became one of the wealthiest women in the world in her time.
Henie was married three times, with Dan Topping, Winthrop Gardner, and finally the wealthy Norwegian shipowner and art patron Niels Onstad in 1956. Together, Henie and Onstad settled in Oslo and accumulated a large collection of modern art that formed the basis for the Henie-Onstad Art Centre at Høvikodden, near Oslo.
She was diagnosed with leukemia in the mid-1960s. She died in 1969 during a flight from Paris to Oslo. Considered by many as one of the greatest figure skaters in history, she and her husband are buried on the hilltop overlooking the Henie-Onstad Art Centre.