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Sonja Henie
Norwegian Figure Skating Champion

1912 - 1969

The world never puts a price on you
higher than the one you put on yourself.

                                                             —Sonja Henie

Sonja Henie was born on April 8, 1912 in Oslo, Norway. She was an Olympic and World Champion figure skater who helped increase the popularity of competitive figure skating. She won the gold medal for figure skating at the 1928, 1932, and 1936 Winter Olympics.

Henie started skating and dancing as a child. She won the first of ten consecutive world championships in 1927, and in 1928 her first Olympic gold medal at Saint Moritz, Switzerland. She dominated amateur women's figure skating for 10 years, winning her third Olympic gold medal at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in 1936.

Henie turned professional in the United States in 1936. In 1941, she became a citizen of the United States. She performed in popular ice shows into the 1950s, and made a number of successful films, which often featured her skating. She made ice skating television specials in the 1950s. Henie died on October 12, 1969.

The following story was submitted to Lucidcafé by Kenny Lamb, one of the professional skaters who performed with Sonja Henie during her professional performances in the United States in the 1950s. This story illustrates the type of person Sonja Henie was...

The Sonja show was playing The Baltimore Armory in 1952. While we were rehearsing for the show we watched a work crew erecting some extra bleacher seats. We noticed they were working very clumsily and didn't look very skilled but figured they knew what they were doing. Were we ever wrong!

As the overature for the show began (around 8 PM) we heard a strange screeching sound and then a roar. The roar was the sound of a thousand seats, filled with people, crashing 18 feet to the floor! They were sitting in the bleachers that had been hastily built during our rehearsal! The screeching was the nails being pulled out of the wood!

Since we were playing in an armory there was immediate first aid provided by National Guard personnel. The guardsmen had to break down doors from the outside to help the victims who were trapped down in what was now a pit-like area. Sonja had the orchestra play quietly until the people involved were taken out for first aid and to hospitals.

At about 9:30 the stage manager came up to Sonja and said "shall we start the show now?"......Sonja just looked at him and said two words,"YOU'RE FIRED!" She then stayed up all night visiting the injured victims that were hospitalized over night, about fifty in all. There were about two hundred injured but thankfully no deaths. She delayed starting the show for three days, doing everything possible to help the victims. She was like that, and we loved her for it.

Thank you, Kenny, for sharing this story!!

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Copyright © 1995-2016 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - April 1996