The Fifties

“The Golden Age of American Skating” hit its peak. Between 1950 and 1959, U.S. skaters won 55 medals at the World Championships and Olympic Winter Games. Dick Button continued to push the sport forward and became the first skater to land a triple jump. Greats such as Tenley Albright, Carol Heiss, Hayes Alan Jenkins and David Jenkins followed in Button’s footsteps. Ice dance made its debut at the World Championships.

This year, U.S. Figure Skating is celebrating its centennial anniversary as it recognizes those members, clubs and fans who have given so much to U.S. Figure Skating over the past 100 years. This page honors the top athletes of the 1950s whose competitive achievements defined the decade. Learn more about the athletes from the last 100 years below, and
check out the Centennial Celebration section of our website for more content.

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The Fifties – “Golden Age of American Skating” hits its peak

Dr. Tenley Albright
Albright dominated the first half of the 1950s. She won five consecutive U.S. title from 1952 to 1956 and World titles in 1953 and 1955. Her 1953 World title was the first for U.S. in the ladies competition. She capped her career by becoming the first U.S. lady to win the Olympic title in 1956.

Olympic champion – 1956
Olympic silver medalist – 1952
Olympian – 1952, ’56
World champion – 1953, ’55
World silver medalist – 1954, ’56
U.S. champion – 1952, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56

Carol Heiss
Heiss took the top spot in the back half of the decade, winning four consecutive U.S. titles and five consecutive World titles, a record she still holds with Michelle Kwan. Heiss finished second behind Albright at the 1956 Games and claimed the top spot at the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California.

Olympic champion – 1960
Olympic silver medalist – 1956
Olympian – 1956, ‘60
World champion – 1956, ’57, ’58, ’59, ’60
World silver medalist – 1955
U.S. champion – 1957, ’58, ’59, ’60

Richard “Dick” Button
After World War II, Button burst onto the scene and redefined figure skating. Button was dominant, winning seven consecutive U.S. titles and five consecutive World titles, both of which are still U.S. records. He then became the first American to win Olympic gold in 1948 and claimed the top spot again at the 1952 Games. At the 1952 Games, he became the first skater to ever land a triple jump of any kind  (triple loop). He is also the first and only male skater to simultaneously hold all of the following titles: U.S., North American, European, World and Olympic.

Olympic champion – 1948, ’52
Olympian – 1948, ’52
World champion – 1948, ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52
World silver medalist – 1947
U.S. men’s champion – 1946, ’47, ’48, ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52

James Grogan
Grogan stood on the Olympic podium with Dick Button at the 1952 Olympic Winter Games in Oslo, Norway. Grogan was a two-time Olympian and won multiple U.S. medals over his long career that overlapped with the famed Button.

Olympic bronze medalist – 1952
Olympian – 1948, ’52
World silver medalist – 1951, ‘52, ’53, ‘54

Hayes Alan Jenkins
Inspired by the great Dick Button, Jenkins continued the streak of U.S. dominance in men’s skating, winning the World title in the four consecutive years following Button’s five titles, from 1948 to 1952. He also held the top spot at the U.S. Championships from 1953 to 1956. Jenkins earned gold at the 1956 Olympic Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, leading the U.S. men’s podium sweep with Ronald “Ronnie” Robertson and his brother David Jenkins. The U.S. is still the only country to ever sweep an event at the Olympics in figure skating.

Olympic champion – 1956
Olympian – 1952, ’56
World champion – 1953, ’54, ’55, ’56
World bronze medalist – 1950, ’52
U.S. champion – 1953, ’54, ’55, ’56

Dr. David Jenkins
Following in the footsteps of his older brother Hayes, Jenkins was part of the deep field of U.S. men who dominated in the 1950s. Jenkins held the World title from 1957 to 1959, rounding out the 12-year span of U.S. men sitting on top of the World podium. After earning the bronze medal as part of the  U.S. podium sweep at the 1956 Olympics, Jenkins claimed the gold medal at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley. He also held the U.S. title from 1957 to 1960.

Olympic champion – 1960
Olympic bronze medalist – 1956
Olympian – 1956, ’60
World champion – 1957, ’58, ’59
World bronze medalist – 1955, ’56
U.S. champion – 1957, ’58, ’59, ’60

Tim Brown
Tim Brown earned three consecutive World medals from 1957-59. He also represented the U.S. at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley. Brown earned multiple U.S. medals during the height of his career which overlapped Olympic champion David Jenkins.

Olympian – 1960
World silver medalist – 1957, ‘58
World bronze medalist – 1959

Ronald “Ronnie” Robertson
Robertson helped complete the only Olympic figure skating podium sweep with U.S. compatriots Hayes Jenkins and David Jenkins in 1956, earning the silver medal. He is also a two-time World silver medalist.

Olympic silver medalist – 1956
Olympian – 1956
World silver medalist – 1955, ’56

Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy
The Kennedy brother-sister team brought U.S. pairs back into the global conversation, collecting four World silver medals and the first World pairs title in 1950. They also won five consecutive U.S. titles from 1948 to 1952. They capped their career with Olympic silver at the 1952 Games in Oslo, Norway.

Olympic silver medalists – 1952
Olympians – 1948, ’52
World champions – 1950
World silver medalists – 1947, ’49, ’51, ’52
U.S. champions – 1948, ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52

Carole Ormaca and Robin Greiner
Ormaca and Greiner topped the U.S. pairs podium for four consecutive years in the 1950s, winning gold from 1953 to 1956. They also represented the country at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Olympians – 1956
U.S. champions – 1953, ’54, ’55, ’56

Nancy Ludington and Ronald Ludington
The Ludingtons made a splash in pairs in the late 1950s. The previously married team held the U.S. title from 1957 to 1960 and collected the World bronze medal in 1959. They capped their career by earning the Olympic bronze medal in 1960.

Olympic bronze medalists – 1960
Olympians – 1960
World bronze medalists – 1959
U.S. champions – 1957, ’58, ’59, ’60

Lois Waring
Lois Waring is a five-time U.S. ice dance champion with two different partners. She won three consecutive titles with Walter Bainbridge from 1947 to 1949, and two titles with Michael McGean in 1950 and 1952.

U.S. champion (with Bainbridge) – 1947, ’48, ’49
U.S. champion (with McGean) – 1950, ’52

Other U.S. World medalists in the 1950s

Yvonne Sherman – 1950, bronze
Sonya Klopfer – 1951, bronze; ’52, silver
Virginia Baxter – 1952, bronze

Ice Dance
Carol Peters and Daniel Ryan – 1952, bronze; ’53 bronze
Carmel Bodel and Edward Bodel – 1954, bronze
Sharon McKenzie and Bert Wright – 1957, bronze
Andrea Anderson and Donald Jacoby – 1958, bronze; ’59, silver

Other U.S. champions in the 1950s

Yvonne Sherman – 1950
Sonya Klopfer – 1951

Ice Dance
Carmel Bodel and Edward Bodel – 1951, ’54, ’55
Carol Ann Peters and Daniel Ryan – 1953
Joan Zamboni and Roland Junso – 1956
Sharon McKenzie and Bert Wright – 1957
Andree Anderson and Donald Jacoby – 1958, ’59

Janet Gerhauser, Marilyn Thomsen, Marlyn Thomsen and John Nightingale – 1950


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