I understand that it's really impossible to judge Sonja Henie as a skater seventy years after the fact. Obviously her jumps seem almost primitive compared to what the average twelve-year-old pipsqueak can do today. But I'm wondering what all of you think in terms of her other skills, especially as shown in her films, which give us the most detailed look at her moves. I'm watching Wintertime now on cable. As entertainment, the skating routines are top-flight, beautifully costumed even in black and white, filmed in intricate, extensive skating spaces. There are a lot of big band music performances in the film as well. The overall effect is a continuous feast of escapist entertainment. But I'd love to have some of you experts help me evaluate her skating skills.
Jumps: I'm assuming that, like most show skaters today, Henie dialed back on her jumps, but even if they were at their peak for the time, it would be unfair to compare them to the jumps of today. They didn't have much height, for example, and she barely did singles in her film routines. I can't recall in my reading whether she pioneered any double jumps during her competitive career, or whether that advance came later in the history of skating.
Lifts: She mastered a few impressive pair lifts still used today; clearly she was an excellent athlete. These would have wowed an audience accustomed to a high level of pair dancing on film (Astaire and his various partners, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy, and so on). In Wintertime, she actually does some ballroom dancing (on a floor, not the ice) with Cesar Romero, and she's very good, especially in some rather demanding lifts and turns. Imagine if they'd had a Dancing with the Stars program back then; she could have won, just like Kristi.
Bladework: I assume that even today, this would be considered very good. This was the heyday of school figures, after all. She could run on point across the ice (not a move valued today, but impressive and also indicative of great command and balance), and she could do that two-foot stop after speeding across the ice. Her general movement across the ice seems very smooth to me. And she seems very fast. Am I correct in thinking this?
Spins: Her spins look fast and centered. I don't feel any particular admiration for her positions during spins, though.
Extensions and posture: This always bothered me about her skating. Extension (especially of her legs) and posture didn't seem to matter to her. Her spirals were executed almost with a hunched back, and her free leg was often bent in spirals and many other moves as well.
Does anyone have anything to add, correct, or point out?