Just two days before the men’s figure skating free skate in the St. Moritz 1948 Olympic Winter Games, Dick Button successfully landed a double axel in practice for the first time.
Forty-eight hours later, with the bright lines shining, the 18-year-old Button was not about to back down: He became to first skater to land a double axel in competition, propelling him to become the first American man to win a gold medal in figure skating singles.
Four years later, at the Oslo 1952 Olympic Winter Games, Button took things one step – actually, one rotation – further as he became the first skater to land a triple jump in competition. The judges unanimously voted him the gold medal winner.
Suffice to say, Button was not scared of big moments.
He had an illustrious skating career. In addition to Olympic gold, he took home five consecutive gold medals from the World Championships and became the only American to win a European championship. He also invented the flying camel spin.
After the Oslo 1952 Olympic Winter Games, Button retired from competitive skating in order to focus on his studies at Harvard Law School. He skated occasionally in the Ice Capades and other shows and was a longtime television analyst on figure skating coverage, earning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality.