When a flight crashed in Belgium in 1961, killing 72 passengers aboard including the entire U.S. figure skating team, the sport was forever altered in the United States.
“We lost a whole tier of top athletes and coaches,” said Paul George, an aspiring competitor at the time, who won a national championship the following year and later served as U.S. team manager and a vice president of what is now known as the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
“That was the most devastating thing,” said Peggy Fleming Jenkins, who like George, lost her coach in the crash. “Not only losing all the talent in skating. All the role models for people like me to look up to were gone. The television coverage wasn’t that much back then. But also our top coaches all across the country were gone. That pulled the rug out of our sport.”
Listen to their StoryCorps conversation as George and Fleming discuss the comeback of U.S. figure skating, capped by Fleming winning the gold medal at the Grenoble 1968 Olympic Winter Games.