Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Olympic hero shares life's thrills, spills

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Peggy Fleming greets the audience at the Aronoff Center.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Olympic legend Peggy Fleming told a packed audience at the Aronoff Center for the Arts on Monday night that success in life depends on who you select to be on your team.

        Ms. Fleming, who won a gold medal at age 19 in the women's figure skating competition in 1968 at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, was the fourth of five speakers in the Unique Lives & Experiences Women's Lecture Series.

        “When I won in the Olympic tryouts at age 15, I didn't know I was learning lessons that would carry me through life,” she said.

        “My coaches, trainers, and my family have guided me through victory and through terror. The good things that have happened to me have given me confidence, but it was the bad things that have given me strength.”

        She talked about her success in the skating rink as well as her triumph over breast cancer.

        Ms. Fleming said she learned she had breast cancer in February 1998, on the 30th anniversary of winning the gold medal. She has gone through surgery and treatment.

        “It was the strength of my family and my team that brought me through cancer as they did in the skating rink,” she said.

        She shared some touching moments of her career, describing the terror she experienced when she first started skating.

        “I was shy, but somehow skating came natural to me. When I started out, I felt I had the grace and elegance to be a winner,” she said.

        But her career started with ups and downs. She won a championship at age 9 and came in last on her next skating competition, she said.

        The sold-out event at the Aronoff drew 2,800 people. It was sponsored in part by The Cincinnati Enquirer and presented by TriHealth.

        Skating aficionados often referred to Ms. Fleming as the athlete who changed the sport.

        As a Pasadena, Calif., teen-ager, daughter of an artist mother and athlete father, she was able to com bine the imagination of an artist and the agility of an athlete during her performances.

        At 51, she can reflect on five U.S. titles, three world titles and a gold medal, plus a television career with ABC Sports.

        The lecture series, founded in 1992, aims to meet women's interest in meaningful, issue-driven discussion.


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