Biography of Peggy Fleming, Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater

American figure skater Peggy Fleming performs a routine at the Olympics in Grenoble, France, February 11, 1968. She won the gold medal.
Express Newspapers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Peggy Fleming (born 1948) is an American figure skater, who dominated world championship skating between 1964 and 1968. She won a gold medal at the Olympics in Grenoble in 1968, and then went on to have a long career in professional skating.

Fast Facts: Peggy Fleming

  • Occupation: Olympic and professional skater, broadcast journalist
  • Known For: 1968 Olympics Gold Medal in Figure Skating at Grenoble, France
  • Born: July 27, 1948, in San Jose, California 
  • Parents: Albert and Doris Elizabeth Deal Fleming
  • Notable Television Specials: "Here's Peggy Fleming" (1968), "Peggy Fleming at Sun Valley" (1971), "Fire on Ice: Champions of American Figure Skating" (2001) 
  • Education: Colorado College in Colorado Springs
  • Awards: 5 U.S. Championships; 3 World Championship; Female Athlete of the Year, Associated Press, 1968
  • Spouse: Greg Jenkins
  • Children: Andrew Thomas Jenkins, Todd Jenkins
  • Notable Quote: "The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours."

Early Years

Peggy Gale Fleming was born on July 27, 1948, in San Jose, California, one of four daughters of newspaper press operator Albert Fleming and his wife Doris Elizabeth Deal. Her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where at the age of nine she began skating, winning her first competition at age 11. 

Her family returned to California in 1960 and Fleming began training with coach William Kipp. In 1961, a plane outside of Brussels on its way to a World Championship competition crashed, killing 72 people, 34 of whom were members of the U.S. skating team, skaters, coaches, officials, family, and friends. Bill Kipp was among those killed in the crash. A memorial fund was set up after the crash, and Fleming used her part of the award to buy new skates. 

Rebuilding American Figure Skating 

After the plane crash, the remaining staff of the U.S. Figure Skating Team began rebuilding, and Peggy Fleming was one of the major components. Working with coach John Nicks, she won her first U.S. championship in 1965—her first of five in a row. She was 16 at the time, the youngest U.S. women's champion ever, and would hold that record until Tara Lipinski won her title at the age of 14 in 1996. To help prepare Fleming for world championships, her father took a job with a newspaper in Colorado Springs so she could afford to train in higher altitudes. She began working with coach Carlo Fassi, attended Colorado College in 1966, and won her first World Championship in Switzerland that same year. 

Olympic Ladies Skating Winners Waving
At the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, US Gold medalist Peggy Fleming (center), Gabrielle Seyfert and Hana Makova. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Peggy won gold, because of what Sports Illustrated called her "pretty and balletic, elegant and stylish" performance. She won the only gold medal earned by the U.S. that year. 

Titles and Honors

  • Five United States titles, 1964–1968
  • Three world titles, 1966–1968
  • Olympic gold medal, figure skating, Grenoble, February 10, 1968
  • Female Athlete of the Year, Associated Press, 1968
  • U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame

Turning Professional

Fleming turned professional in 1968 and was soon skating in popular shows such as Ice Capades, Holiday on Ice, and Ice Follies. She was featured in numerous television specials, including "Here's Peggy Fleming" (1968, which also featured legendary dancer Gene Kelly) "Fire on Ice: Champions of American Figure Skating" (2001), "Christmas on Ice" (1990), "Skates of Gold" (1994) and "A Skater's Tribute to Broadway" (1998). Her 1971 television special "Peggy Fleming at Sun Valley," which included an appearance by Olympic skier Jean-Claude Killy, won Emmy awards for director Sterling Johnson and cinematographer Bob Collins. In 1983, she shared a co-starring role with Toller Cranston and Robin Cousins in Radio City Music Hall’s "Ice," a theatrical dance spectacle of three dozen skaters and a 45-piece orchestra. 

In 1981, Fleming became an ABC Sports commentator for skating events in the U.S. and internationally. Her work as a skating analyst, often appearing alongside Olympic gold medalist skater Dick Button, kept her in the public eye throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and in 1994 she was featured in Sports Illustrated as one of the world's most important athletes of the day. 

Family and Activism

Peggy married dermatologist Greg Jenkins in 1970, and they had two children, Andy and Todd. 

In 1998, Fleming was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. She has been active in speaking about early detection and treatment of breast cancer, and she has been a spokeswoman for a calcium supplement.

She and her husband owned and ran the Fleming Jenkins Vineyards and Winery in California; they retired in 2017 and returned to Colorado. 

Legacy and Impact

Fleming has had a long-term impact on the sport of skating and is known for her combination of style and athletic ability. While she was active, she was known for her seemingly effortless performances, combining balletic grace with the era's most difficult leaps. In the 1994 Sports Illustrated article naming her as one of 40 greatest sports figures since 1964, writer E.M. Swift said: "She seemed to flow from one element to the next, seamlessly, weightlessly, like something blown about by the wind." She was invited to the White House twice—in 1980, she was the first skater ever invited to perform at the White House, and her appearances and performances inspired generations of U.S. women skaters.​

"The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours."

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Peggy Fleming, Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 28). Biography of Peggy Fleming, Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Peggy Fleming, Olympic Gold Medal Figure Skater." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).