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Thread: Sonja Henie as a skater

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    Sonja Henie as a skater

    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?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    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.
    I believe that Cecilia Colledge landed the first double Salchow by a lady at 1936 Europeans (where she finished second to Henie). Henie's biggest jump trick was two Axels in a row, with steps in between.

    Henie did her Lutz jumps clockwise, the opposite direction from her other jumps.

    [quoew]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,...[quote]

    But Alexei Yagudin reprised it in 2002 with Winter and brought the house down

    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.
    Balletic extension did not seem to be important back then. Was Janet Lynn the first to really work on that aspect of skating? There were pretty skaters before, like Peggy Fleming, but...

    Overall, I have mixed feelings about Sonja Henie. She was the greatest, but by all accounts she was a mean and nasty person off the ice.

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    Good thread. I didn't know about her dancing with Cesar Romero. Cool!

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Cecelia Colledge had quite nice ballet extension, so no, Janet was not the first.
    She was the inventor of the modern spiral sequence.

    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/200...portobituaries

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    Cecilia Colledge.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOq6pFqMY1Q

    At the 1936 Olympics, after the figures competition Henie was only a few points ahead of Colledge. Naturally this infuriated Henie and she tore the official score sheets into little pieces.

    When the skate order for the free skate was announced, lo and behold Henie was awarded the coveted last spot while Colledge went second of twenty-six.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    PS. I don't think that Colledge actually skated to Muskrat Ramble, though.

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    Outdated Old Dinosaur
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    While Henie's heyday was (slightly) before my time, I also recall reading that she wasn't a very nice person.

    I also recall that she may have been the first skater "held up" by the judges later in her career, and that in at least one of her Olympic wins, a very large number of Norwegian judges were on the panel.

    How much of that is true? I don't know... but it's interesting to see how her record is not venerated by all.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    It was the 1927 World Championship in Oslo where there were three Norwegian judges and two German-Austrian judges. Fourteen year old Henie beat five-time and defending world champion Herma Szabo, three judges to two. Szabo never competed again. The next year the ISU instituted a rule that there could be only one judge from each country.

    For some reason, all the biographies of Henie seem to have been written by her worst enemies. She couldn't have been as detestable as she is usually depicted in the skating literature.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    You might think so...but I just read a book called the Sociopath Next Door, which cites the figure that in the US, 4% of the population tests out as socipathic. Who knows? Henie could have been one too At 4% chance, it's not impossible.

    There are some people out there, that as an old friend of mine used to say, "Are just plain bad."

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    From what I've read, she was the rather spoiled daughter of a wealthy man. In addition, for large parts of her life, she was the most important person in any room--and the source of income for most of them (servants, coaches, managers and so on). That could turn almost anyone into a bratty diva, and it certainly seems to have done so in Henie's case.

    But she sure tested the boundaries between good and bad. To add to the other unsavory details, she apparently spent some time being friendly with Hitler and Goebbels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    From what I've read, she was the rather spoiled daughter of a wealthy man. In addition, for large parts of her life, she was the most important person in any room--and the source of income for most of them (servants, coaches, managers and so on). That could turn almost anyone into a bratty diva, and it certainly seems to have done so in Henie's case.

    But she sure tested the boundaries between good and bad. To add to the other unsavory details, she apparently spent some time being friendly with Hitler and Goebbels.
    All I can remember is that she did hang around Hitler and pals and when asked to denounce them refused.

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    I imagine that this was a woman who could never bring herself to say that she was wrong about anything.

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    I imagine that this was a woman who could never bring herself to say that she was wrong about anything.
    or she agreed with their ideals. *shrugs* we'll never know.

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    Gotta Have Music iluvtodd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    From what I've read, she was the rather spoiled daughter of a wealthy man. In addition, for large parts of her life, she was the most important person in any room--and the source of income for most of them (servants, coaches, managers and so on). That could turn almost anyone into a bratty diva, and it certainly seems to have done so in Henie's case.

    But she sure tested the boundaries between good and bad. To add to the other unsavory details, she apparently spent some time being friendly with Hitler and Goebbels.

    This is all so disturbing to me, especially the last part.

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    Yes, ILT, I agree. And it's especially significant that she was Norwegian. For someone from Norway to express such things must have been such a slap in the face to the country. Kind of like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, with their clueless "friendship" with that foul crew. What did they care about what the Reich did to the little people?

    I hadn't remembered any of this about Henie. I found it out when I was looking stuff up after Mathman's post. It's sitting right there in Wiki. I know that Americans tend to be amnesiac about stuff like that (except for some reason with Jane Fonda), but I wonder what the sentiment about her was in Norway after the War.

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