Legends of the Winter Olympics
Sonja Henie, 1928
Before taking up skating, Sonja Henie, a petite Norwegian, was trained in ballet. She entered her first major international competition at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. The 11-year-old Henie finished last in her event. Four years later, she won her first gold medal in figure skating at the 1928 Olympics, and then again at the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, before hanging up her skates to pursue an acting career. Henie is shown here in 1927, training for the 1928 Winter Games.
Toni Sailer, 1956
Austrian skiing champion Toni Sailer became the first man to sweep the alpine skiing events at the Winter Olympics, winning gold medals in downhill, slalom and giant slalom at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, in 1956. He was 21. The superstar skier quickly earned the nickname the "Blitz from Kitz," but retired from the sport two years later to devote himself to singing and acting.
Jean-Claude Killy, 1968
Having already won numerous national and international titles, Jean-Claude Killy made an incredible showing at the 1968 Winter Games, which were held in his home country of France. Killy won gold medals for all three divisions of Alpine skiing -- downhill, slalom and giant slalom -- and became only the second skier in Olympic history to sweep the Alpine events.
Franz Klammer, 1976
Coming into the Olympics as the 1975 World Cup tour downhill champion, Franz Klammer was the favorite to win at the 1976 Winter Games. Skiing close to last in the downhill competition, the Austrian gave one of the most thrilling performances in the history of the Olympic Games when he beat ski champion Bernhard Russi for the gold by one-third of a second.
Eric Heiden, 1980
At the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., Eric Heiden accomplished what no Olympian had before -- in either the summer or winter competitions. He won five individual gold medals in a single Olympics. The 21-year-old speed skater also claimed five Olympic race records, including one world record, over the course of the nine-day competition.
U.S. Ice Hockey Team, 1980
The 1980 United States ice hockey team took home Olympic gold in Lake Placid, N.Y., after an epic battle in what would be remembered as the "Miracle on Ice." The U.S. team defeated the Soviets, who had held the gold since 1964, with a 4-3 score in the semi-finals. The Americans then went on to dominate Finland 4-2 in the finals to win the gold medal.
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, 1984
At the 1984 Winter Olympics, the British pair became the highest scoring figure skaters of all time for a single event, receiving twelve perfect 6.0s for their performance. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean captured numerous titles in British, European, Olympic and World championships from 1981 to 1994 before they officially retired in 1998.
Jamaican Bobsled Team, 1988
The Jamaican bobsled team -- made up of some of the tropical country's best sprinters -- debuted at the 1988 Winter Games in Alberta, Canada. During one of their four runs, the team lost control of their sled and crashed. They then climbed out and famously walked their sled to the finish line to enormous applause. Subsequent teams returned to the games in 1992 and 1994, but have yet to win an Olympic medal, and haven't qualified in a while. A team does plan to compete at the 2010 games.
AP Photo/Ron Heflin
Bonnie Blair, 1988
Coming from a large family of competitive skaters, it's no surprise Bonnie Blair was incredibly successful throughout her speedskating career. This American speedskater became the most successful American female athlete in the history of Olympics. At her debut in the 1988 Winter Games, 23-year-old Blair set a speedskating world record and was the only double medalist for the United States that year. For eight years, she dominated the sprint events -- 500m and 1,000m -- in women's speed skating. Over the course of three Olympic Games (1988, 1992, and 1994), she collected five gold medals and one bronze.
AP Photo/Armando Trovati
Alberto Tomba, 1988
Despite struggling with weight gain, Alberto Tomba garnered wide fame after winning seven races and two Olympic gold medals (in slalom and giant slalom) at the 1988 Olympics. After going home with the silver at 1990 Winter Games, the Italian downhill skiing star took gold in the overall World Cup title with a total of 11 victories, including seven slaloms in a row.
AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle
Dan Jansen, 1994
On the day American Dan Jansen was to compete in his first speedskating race at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games -- his second Olympic appearance -- he learned his sister Jane died of leukemia. Rattled and upset, Jansen fell during both of his events, the 500 meter and 1,000 meter, and went home empty-handed. It wasn't until his fourth Olympic appearance in 1994 that he won the gold medal he had sought 10 years prior.
AP Photo/Ed Reinke
Georg Hackl, 1994
Georg Hackl is the only luger to win medals at five consecutive Olympic Games: from 1988 to 2002. The German luger started practicing harder after taking home the silver at the 1988 Winter Games, and it paid off. He won the gold medal at the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games, defeating Marcus Prock of Austria in the closest men's singles competition in 24 years. Hackl and Prock faced off again at the 1994 Olympic Games, and again Hackl claimed the gold in an even closer race. If the four runs had been a single race, Hackl would have won by less than 35 centimeters in a 3.5-mile-long track.
Getty Images/Allsport/Al Bello
Björn Dæhlie, 1998
Cross-country skier Björn Dæhlie is the most successful male Nordic skier in Olympic history. Out of his 15 Olympic appearances, he has won 12 medals, eight of them gold. He is also the only man to win six Olympic gold medals in individual events. In what he would later call the hardest race of his life, Dæhlie's final Olympic race -- and his final victory -- was in the 50 kilometer event at the 1998 Winter Games. After skiing for more than two hours, he crossed the finish line 8.1 seconds faster than Sweden's Niklas Jonsson, before he collapsed and was unable to stand for five minutes.