When everyone had copied this style, she turned to white boots, which are now universal for women, and shorter and shorter skirts. Her outfits were designed by some of Europes finest couturiers. The popularity of the sport increased and the number of her competitors grew steadily. In the Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid in 1932 two British eleven-year­ olds, Megan Taylor and Cecilia Colledge, made effective starts to their international careers by gaining seventh and eighth places, and repeating these standings at the World Championships which followed in Montreal, in which fourteen women took part.

Megans father taught skating, but Cecilia was inspired to ask her mother if she could try the sport after seeing Sonja win her second World title in 1928 in London. When Cecilia competed in Lake Placid she was eight months younger than Sonja had been in Chamonix in 1924, and she still holds the record as the youngest entrant in the Winter Olympic Games. Megan and Cecilia formed half the British team in the 1932 Olympics. The other two members were also figure skaters. One of them, fifteen-year-old Mollie Phillips, became the first woman to carry the British flag at the Olympics and, in 1947, continued her pioneering path by being appointed the first woman international judge (they had previously been deemed too frail to endure the rigours of officiating outdoors).

Meanwhile, Sonja Henies spectacular career continued, astutely managed by her father. In those days, before the emergence of professional ice shows, clubs organised carnivals that starred leading amateurs and were extremely popular. Sonja developed a skill for becoming fatigued before her scheduled spots, unless consoled by a suitable present. Some of these were considerable. The Norwegian-American Society gave her a sports car. In 1947, after Barbara Ann Scott returned home as the first Canadian to win a World title, she was also given a car. Avery Brundage, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), threatened to take away her amateur status unless she returned it. In vain she argued that Sonja had not been similarly threatened. In the end the car was temporarily returned for the few months it took the Canadian to win the Olympic gold medal, a compromise that foreshadowed the trust funds which can now be set up for athletes.

In the 1936 Olympics Cecilia Colledge came very close to toppling Sonja. The young Briton had been placed a close second in the school figures and could do technically more advanced moves than the Norwegian in the free skating. These were the days before the draws were made in sections to ensure that the top skaters always perform at the end of the proceedings. Cecilia drew to skate second of the twenty-three competitors, before some of the audience had even arrived, and her chance of winning slipped away when she fell. Sonja, skating last, enchanted the capacity crowd, which included Hitler, at the open-air Garmisch - Partenkirchen arena. Spotlights were turned on to augment the fading light and enhance her appeal. Nowadays a rule specifies that the lighting must remain the same for all contestants.

In 1936 Sonja and her father packed her gold medals from three consecutive Olympics and ten World Championships and headed for America. They hired a Los Angeles rink, put on a show and invited all the celebrities to whom they could gain access. Carole Lombard, Jeannette MacDonald, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Gary Cooper, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore were amongst the stars who turned up to see her skate, but not the one man they wanted in the audience - Darryl F. Zanuck. They had almost to kidnap the head of Twentieth Century-Fox to get him there, and even then he initially offered Sonja only a small role in one of his films. It took time, but they did persuade him to make a film built around her talents.

Sonja made twelve films in all, beautifully costumed and with specially-composed music, including Chatanooga Choo Choo, written for her seventh film, Sun Valley Serenade. The last, Sonja Henie comes to London, was filmed in the late 1950s. In all her films Sonja co-starred with well-known, bankable actors and they were enormous successes. As a result there was a boom in ice-rink manufacture to meet the demand of mothers trying to turn their daughters into skating stars. When Sonja died in 1969 her assets were worth many millions of pounds. Just outside her birthplace, Oslo, she created an art centre, and it is there that all her trophies are housed.
Worlds Greatest Skaters
Chapter 2
Page 4
Yesterday and Today
2. World's Greatest Skaters (Page 5). Book on Skating Index Page..