Biography Of Sonja Henie

Description of the life and career of Sonja Henie. Ice skating and film accomplishments are highlighted.

Sonja Henie was born on April 8, 1912. Her birthplace was then know as Kristiania, Norway but is now known as Oslo, Norway. Henie began ice-skating at age six and soon began winning competitions in the sport. She was also known for transforming figure skating into a more graceful and popular event by incorporating ballet maneuvers and dance choreography into figure skating. She was the first skater to ever wear a skirt that came above her knees with white skates which is a look that is very much in style even today. She began as an amateur skater but evolved into a trendsetter for all the great figure skaters who would follow her in this sport

Henie most likely inherited her athletic talents, business sense, and poise from her parents, Hans & Selma Henie. At the age of 5, Henie began ballet lessons and by age 6, she was receiving ice-skating lesson from her older brother, Leif. Her grace and skill were immediately apparent which prompted her parents to recruit the famed skating instructor, Oscar Holte to train her further. Henie was immediately successful and won the children's figure skating championship of Oslo when she was 8. The following year, she added honors from the national Junior Class-C. At the age of 10, Henie won the Norwegian national figure skating championship. She competed in her first Olympic Winter games in 1924 where she placed 8th. Henie introduced a new style of skating to the event that caught the attention of many judges and onlookers. In 1925, Sonja won another Norwegian Championship title. Her first World Amateur Championship for Women came in 1927. She was the youngest person to ever win that competition and she was able to retain the title for 10 consecutive years.

In addition to figure skating, Henie was also a ranked Norwegian tennis player after winning three championships in 1936, an excellent swimmer, an equestrienne, and a highly competent ballerina. She was the first woman ever to receive a medal from the Norwegian government for her versatility and achievement in sports. Henie placed second in an amateur automobile race held in Stockholm in 1932.



Despite not winning an Olympic medal in her debut appearance, Henie went on to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in her those Olympic Winter Games appearances. Her first medal was obtained in 1928 at Saint Mortiz, Switzerland, her second came from

Lake Placid, New York (USA) in 1932, and her third was captured in Garmesch-Partenkirchen, Germany in 1936. Henie was honored, in her homeland of Norway, in December of 1937 for her achievements when then King Haakon made her Knight First Class of the Order of St. Olaf. Henie once held the title of the youngest woman to win any Olympic gold medal. Tara Lapinski broke Henie's record by winning a gold medal in women's figure skating at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

After her third Olympic victory, Henie became a professional skater in the United States. Henie then toured Europe and the Americas starring in the Hollywood Ice Revue. In 1936, she signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox to star in films. Her first film was One in a Million (1937) and it was followed by another film later that year, Thin Ice. Henie became a leading box-office attraction in the film industry from 1937 to 1945 while starring in a dozen motion pictures. In 1937, Henie earned roughly $200,000 from her film work. She was highly ranked in the motion picture popularity polls behind Shirley Temple and Clark Gable in 1939. Henie's later films included, Happy Landing (1938), My Lucky Star (1938), Second Fiddle (1939), Everything Happens at Night (1939), Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Iceland (1942), Wintertime (1943), It's a Pleasure (1945), and The Countess of Monte Cristo (1948).

Henie was honored, in her homeland of Norway, in December of 1937 for her achievements when then King Haakon made her Knight First Class of the Order of St. Olaf.

On July 4, 1940, Henie married Dan Topping but unfortunately that marriage ended with Henie filing for a divorce in January of 1946. Henie became an American citizen in 1941 and by 1947 Henie had become one of the wealthiest women in the world. It has been estimated that over 15 million people had seen Henie skate in her Hollywood Ice Revues and her movies had done well in making money too. She married Winthrop Gardiner Jr. on September 14, 1949 but they too were divorced in April of 1956.

Henie made a costly decision to terminate her agreement with Arthur Wirtz in 1950 and begin producing her own ice shows. By 1951, the Hollywood Ice Revues hit financial hardship with the competition of Wirtz who was trying to replace Henie with the talent of Barbara Ann Scott in his own shows. In 1953, a nearly broke Henie cancelled her productions.

Henie married on last time on June 6, 1956. She married Niels Onstad with whom she attempted a film comeback in 1958 and 1959 with Hello London, which was never released. When Henie retired from skating she had amassed over 500 awards and medals during her career. Henie never had any children. She died of leukemia on October 12, 1969 at the age of 57 while returning home to Oslo, Norway. Henie was 57 at the time of her death. Her husband, Niels, her brother, Leif, and Leif's three sons survived her. Her estate was left to the Sonja Henie, Niels Onstad Art Center. The art center is located outside of Oslo, Norway and was a project the pair had both worked on during most of the 1960s. It is the home of the couple's art collection as well as all of Henie's medals and trophies. Henie is buried near this place.

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