In the early 1900s, figure skating was a means of emancipation of women. In the era when women were required to demonstrate their Victorian modesty in public, figure skating provided them with rare opportunities in which they could undo their girdles, and flaunted that women could skate as good as men.
In 1902 World Championships Madge Syers realized that there wasn’t a particular rule that prevented women to compete in men’s competitions. Syers entered the competition, and the ISU, surprisingly and admirably, recognized Syers’ argument valid. Syers won the World Championships in 1906 and 1907, and won the first Olympic gold medal in ladies figure skating in 1908.
But in those days there wasn’t a strict requirement for women to display jumps or other skills as men did.
In 1928, Sonja Henie won the Olympic gold. But it’s the beginning of Henie’s career. Henie went on to win two more Olympic gold medals in 1932 and 1936. Henie’s record has not been challenged so far.
No skater has dominated the sport as Henie did. Henie was immensely popular and successful in her off ice career especially as a movie star. In her 10 year tenure, Henie ruled the sport. People were mesmerized by her vivacious spirit on ice and dancing charisma exuding from her fashion and choreography.
Henie was a cultural icon with her short skirt on ice that was considered as revolutionary to her contemporary. Henie’s success and business instinct helped the figure skating evolve to a public sport rather than social elite’s excursion.
Henie was the first woman who turned the figure skating into a grandeur ice show, commercially as well as theatrically. As a successful business woman, Henie died in 1969 at age fifty seven.