Host City: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Venue(s): Ice Stadium, Cortina d'Ampezzo
Date Started: January 30, 1956
Date Finished: February 2, 1956
Format: Each judge ranked each skater by Ordinal Placement from first through last place. The Ordinal Placement for each judge was based on Total Points awarded by that judge to the skaters. The points were based on 60% for Compulsory Figures and 40% for Free Skating, with the tiebreaker for each judge being Compulsory Figure Points. Final placement was determined by a Majority Placement rule. Thus, if a skater was ranked first by a majority of the judges, that skater was placed first overall, and the process was repeated for each place. If no absolute majority for a place existed, the tiebreakers were, in order: 1) Total Ordinals, 2) Total Points, 3) Compulsory Figure Points.
Tenley Albright was the World’s leading figure skating lady in the mid 1950s. She was US Champion five times in a row between 1952 and 1956, and was World Champion in 1953 and 1955. In 1954, however, she was beaten in the World Championships by the 18-year-old German star Gundi Busch, but Gundi chose to turn professional in 1955 and was then not eligible to start in the Cortina Olympics. Albright’s closest opponent was supposed to be a new rising US star, 16-year old Carol Heiss from Queens, NY. She came second to Albright in the 1955 World Championships and the US championships in 1953-55 and was steadily improving. Two weeks before the Olympics Albright fell during training in Cortina d’Ampezzo and seriously injured her right ankle from the blade of her left skate. Her father, a well-known Massachusetts surgeon, came to Italy two days later and was able to patch her up successfully.
The Olympic competition turned out to be a close battle between the two Americans, but Albright was able to edge out Heiss both in the compulsory figures and the free skating. The bronze medal was won by the newly crowned European Champion of 1956, the 15-year old Viennese Ingrid Wendl, who in 2002 was elected as a Member of the Austrian Parliament.
A week after the Olympics, Carol Heiss won the World Championship, after another very close battle with the newly crowned Olympic Champion Albright, who decided to finish her figure skating career after the 1956 season, giving priority to her medical studies at Harvard. Like her father, she later became a surgeon. Heiss competed while knowing that her mother was dying of cancer and it would likely be the last time she would see her compete at the Olympics. She was not from a wealthy family, and the sacrifices the family made for her made most people think she would turn professional after the 1956 Cortina Olympics. But she promised her mother she would remain an amateur to win a gold medal for her at the 1960 Winter Olympics. Two weeks later, Heiss defeated Albright at the 1956 World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Her mother died in October 1956, but Heiss would make good on her promise, become the greatest skater since Sonja Henie, and win the 1960 gold medal. She would also marry the 1956 men’s gold medalist, Hayes Alan Jenkins.
|1||Tenley Albright||20||United States||USA||Gold||10×1+||12.0||1,866.39|
|2||Carol Heiss||16||United States||USA||Silver||11×2+||21.0||1,848.24|
|4||Yvonne Sugden||16||Great Britain||GBR||6×4+||53.0||1,722.83|
|6||Carole Jane Pachl||17||Canada||CAN||6×6+||73.0||1,702.23|
|8||Catherine Machado||19||United States||USA||7×8+||86.5||1,688.29|
|11||Erica Batchelor||22||Great Britain||GBR||8×11+||116.0||1,646.40|
|14||Beth Peach||16||Great Britain||GBR||7×14+||151.0||1,592.32|