Saturday, July 28, 2007
In 1961, when Fleming was 12 years old, her coach William Kipp was killed in the crash of Sabena Flight 548 along with the rest of the United States figure skating team while en route to the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships. Fleming was subsequently coached by Carlo Fassi. She would be forced to define her own style in figure skating, a style that would lead to five U.S. titles, three World titles and the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France. Her award in Grenoble was singularly important for the American athletes and the nation as a whole, for this was the only gold medal that the U.S. Olympic team won in the 1968 Winter Games. It signaled a return to American dominance in the sport of women's figure skating following the unprecedented tragedy of the 1961 plane crash.