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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #78: Tenley Albright

You've probably never heard of Dr. Tenley Albright, and that's a shame. Her story is a fascinating one.

Born in Massachusetts in 1935, Albright suffered from polio at age 11 and turned to ice skating as physical therapy. At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, she won the silver medal in figure skating. She was sixteen, and five years removed from partial paralysis. The next year, she became the first American woman to win gold at the World Skating Championships. She won silver at the WSC in 1954, gold again in 1955, and silver in 1956. That same year in Melbourne she became the first American woman to win Olympic skating gold. From 1952 to 1956, she won five consecutive US skating national titles.

That was just her opening act.

While skating competitively, Albright attended Radcliffe College as a pre-med student and then graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1961, one of only five women among 135 graduates. She pursued a surgical career while continuing to associate with skating and the Olympics. In 1982 she became a vice president of the US Olympic Committee and the first female officer of the USOC. She taught and practiced surgery at Harvard for 23 years, also serving as a director at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute among other endeavors. In 1976 she was in the inaugural class inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

Now 84, Dr. Albright still lives in Chestnut Hill. In 2015 she was inducted into the US National Women's Hall of Fame. She should be honored and remembered as a trailblazer. And as a New Englander.

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