As a child, Henie enjoyed advantages that greatly contributed to her success as a skater. Born on April 8, 1912 in Oslo, Norway, her father, Hans Wilhelm Henie, was a successful fur trader and her mother, Selma Lochman Nielsen, had a fortune of her own. When their daughter showed a special passion for skating at about age six, which she began under the instruction of her brother Leif, they provided her with whatever training she required. The family also fully appreciated Henie's interest in sports. Hans was himself very athletic; among his diverse pursuits, he was a former world champion in bicycling. His daughter began studying ballet at age five and would be active in skiing, swimming, and horseback riding. She later competed successfully in tennis and auto racing in the midst of her skating career. After taking informal lessons at a local skating club, Henie won her first figure skating competition at age nine. The next year, she began training for the national championship of Norway. To allow for a rigorous training schedule, Henie's parents took her out of school, hired a private tutor, and gave her ballet lessons in London during the summer. In 1923 she became the senior national champion of Norway. Both Hans and Selma became deeply involved in Sonja's skating career. Her mother accompanied her on all of her travels and her father would eventually leave his fur business responsibilities to his son in order to manage Henie's career.