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A conversation with Olympic legend Peggy Fleming

Posted at 8:36 PM, Feb 07, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — News 5 Anchor Dianne Derby interviewed Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming, the only American to bring home gold in the 1968 Winter Olympics.

Peggy has a special connection to Colorado Springs, because it's where she trained to achieve that gold-medal performance.

Peggy: Well, I did a lot of other sports before I started skating. I did baseball was my favorite game, and skating up and down the sidewalk roller skating. And I played violin for a little while. And then my dad took all of my sisters and I to a skating rink. And I just, it was easy to me. And my sisters were struggling a little bit, but I roller-skated up and down the sidewalk so skating was just the next step. So I had fun and one thing led to the other.

Dianne: You were only nine years old. Which is just amazing to think on how far you went after a nine-year-old starting on skates?.Yeah. So you really only trained 10 years before you became an Olympian?

Peggy: Right? Well, right. So it went very fast for me. My first competition, I was nine years old. And it was at Sutro Baths in San Francisco. And I won. This is easy. And then. And then I went down to the Pacific Coast competition where lots of other regions come when I came in dead last. So I had the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, right in the very beginning.

Dianne: But don't you think you needed to feel that?

Peggy: I think so. Yeah

Dianne: So you get all the way to the Olympics, you qualify. You're there. You're in your chartreuse we all know it. It's here in the museum is so special. I just asked you a few moments ago. Why don't you still keep it but you had it in your winery for a little while, right? And Mom made this for you?

Peggy: Exactly, she made most of my skating dresses, because we really couldn't afford it. My dad was a newspaper pressman. And, you know, we didn't make very much money. And we had four girls to raise and my expensive sport.

Dianne: Well, in my mind, those things are taken care of for you. But at that time, it was all up to your family to do it.

Peggy: Right. It was and we struggled. So, you know, we somehow managed, my father died in 1966, just three weeks after I won my first World Championship, he died of a heart attack. And it was such a shock. And that that took the wind out of out of me for a while. But I got it back. And you know, he is the inspiration. And my mom and my sisters are inspirations to me to to do my best..... I kept winning the championships, the Nationals and the World. So going into Grenoble, I was the favorite to win, sort of like Nathan Chen. And without all the media coverage, back then we didn't have, you know, all the media that we have today, so that adds to the pressure. But my mother sort of protected me, she said, I don't want you looking at any of the newspapers, I don't want you to look at any of the magazines, and because that will make you nervous, and she was right. So I just had to like, go in there and just show off a little bit, I guess. But I wanted to do my best, and I think one thing when you're a competitor like that under the pressure, you have to like shut everything out and bring yourself back to, for me, Colorado Springs in all the practices that I did, and just think it's just another practice performance. And you do it for yourself.

Dianne: Do you remember every moment of the routine?

Peggy: Oh yeah, oh, yeah... I don't remember every step. I need music. The music was really important to me, because that told me what to do. And, you know, really gave me the guidance and, you know, the emotion to do the performance that I did.

Dianne: We've all seen the performance when you have that final moment and you're spinning and you finish. Did you know at that moment? You were good that you had won?

Peggy: Well, yeah, I was. We had school figures back then, and I was I don't know 89 points ahead of the second girl, so really, all I had to do is go skate. So the pressure was sort of off but you want to do your best, I always want to do my best and it ended up being good enough, so I was thrilled. I mean, it's quite an experience, being the champion

Dianne: and standing on that podium, a breathtaking moment for you.

Peggy: Oh my gosh, yes. And you you stand up there, and you just go, I can't believe I did this. And they put the medal around your neck, and you think of all the people that helped you get there. Yeah, I didn't get there by myself, I got there through my family and my coach and a lot of supporters that I had. And that's how you do it. I mean, it takes a village to, to produce this kind of a performance.

Dianne: What do you say to encourage all the young athletes out there right now who want to be the next Peggy Fleming?

Peggy: Well, I think I love what you're doing. Yeah. And, you know, you have to be brave. You have to, I mean, you have to kind of be a little bit of a show-off. Because that helps your I don't know, your motivation... your confidence. So I think, you know, just believe in yourself and work hard. And, you know, I always my coach always had me go through my routine every day. And all the way through. A lot of skaters just do parts of the program. But what you learn by doing it, the whole performance, you learn how your energy is at certain stages. If you do it in parts, I mean, you're fresh. So it's good to learn how you feel at the end of the program and pace yourself. So

Dianne: Well, it obviously worked. We have a gold medalist standing here right in front of us today. Peggy It is an honor to you, we love hearing part of your story. It's so fun to have you back here where you trained

Peggy: I know it's perfect

Dianne: It's like a hometown for you. Right?

Peggy: And this is where my dress should be it's where my mother made it. And it's here at the Olympic museum so it came home.

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