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Peggy Fleming

Thrown Into Spotlight

Under her mother's watchful eye, Fleming had made a spectacular rise in the figure-skating world and was ranked as the best American skater by the time she was fifteen years old. Part of her rapid rise in the sport was due to the 1961 airplane crash in Brussels, Belgium, that had claimed the lives of almost the entire U.S. figure skating delegation, which was on its way to that year's World Championship. With America's best skaters suddenly gone, the USFSA looked to younger skaters, such as Fleming, to build up a program that was previously the best in the world. Americans Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss Jenkins had claimed the Olympic Gold Medals in women's figure skating in 1956 and 1960, and now Fleming was the leading contender to bring home another gold medal in 1968.

In order to help her daughter live up to her initial promise, Doris Fleming often made coaching changes; one such change, after her daughter's victory at the 1965 National Championship and third-place showing at that year's World Championship, took the Flemings to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where coach Carlo Fassi was teaching. The change was a crucial one in Fleming's career, as Fassi worked with her intensively on practicing her compulsory (or school) figures, which were a major portion in the scoring of USFSA and ISU events. Fassi's demand that Fleming treat every practice session as an actual competition paid off. She repeated as National Champion in 1966 and then took the gold medal at the World Championship in Davos, Switzerland later that year. In addition to helping her skating career, the move to Colorado Springs was also significant in Fleming's personal life as it occurred shortly after her father died of a heart attack in 1966. It was during this time that she also met Greg Jenkins, a former pairs skater who would eventually attend medical school and become a dermatologist. The two started dating in 1966 and were married four years later, on June 13, 1970.

Although she continued to work with coach Bob Paul on her choreography, Fassi's technical input and insights helped Fleming to become almost unbeatable after 1966. Often described as having nerves of steel in competition, Fleming credited her mother for helping her get ready for events by taking the pressure off of her daughter. Doris Fleming indeed earned a reputation as a formidable force on the skating circuit and went out of her way to help her daughter keep her focus on skating. On the ice, Fleming developed into a skater who combined athleticism with grace and power. Her style contrasted significantly with many European skaters, who often demonstrated significant technical ability but only rudimentary choreography. The best example of Fleming's unique style was shown in her spread eagle move into a double axel jump followed by another spread eagle. Although the combination was extremely difficult to execute, it created a breathtaking and impressive moment on the ice.

Awards and Accomplishments

1959 Won gold medal, United Figure Skating Association (USFSA) Bay Area Juvenile Championship
1960 Won gold medal, USFSA Pacific Coast Juvenile Championship
1961 Won gold medal, USFSA Pacific Coast Novice Championship
1962 Won gold medal, USFSA Pacific Coast Championship
1962 Won silver medal, USFSA National Novice Championship
1963 Won bronze medal, USFSA National Junior Championship
1964 Placed sixth at the Innsbruck Winter Olympic Games
1964 Placed seventh at the International Skating Union (ISU) World Championship
1964-68 Won gold medals, USFSA National Championship
1965 Won bronze medal, ISU World Championship
1966-68 Won gold medals, ISU World Championship
1967 Named ABC Athlete of the Year
1968 Received Babe Didrickson Zaharias Award
1968 Won gold medal, women's figure skating, Grenoble Winter Olympic Games
1974 Inducted into U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame
1976 Inducted into USFSA Hall of Fame
1976 Inducted into World Figure Skating Hall of Fame
1981 Inducted into International Women's Sports Hall of Fame
1997 Received U.S. Olympic Committee Olympic Spirit Award

The Long Program: Skating Toward Life's Victories

I was proud to be on the [1964 Winter Olympic] team, but I hated the Olympic uniforms. Even then, fashion was becoming an important part ofthe total package. How you looked said a lot about your style, and yourstyle was what made your skating different and special. Those tight skipants and geeky wool jackets with red and blue stripes on the collar werenot my style. Still, when all the American team walked into the arena with allthe thousands of other athletes, all of us in our uniforms and all of usmarching behind our flags—it was breathtaking: a hundred thousand peo-ple roaring and applauding, under the snow-capped Alps and the bluestblue sky in the world. Everybody should have a first Olympics—it movesyou, takes over your emotions and overwhelms you until you can hardlythink. And everyone should be fortunate enough to go on to have a secondOlympics, so that you have time to take it all in.

Source: Peggy Fleming, with Peter Kaminsky, The Long Program: Skating Toward Life's Victories, New York: Pocket Books, 1999, p. 40.

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Famous Sports StarsFigure SkatingPeggy Fleming Biography - Showed Early Promise, Chronology, Thrown Into Spotlight, Awards And Accomplishments, The Long Program: Skating Toward Life's Victories - SELECTED WRITINGS BY FLEMING: