This Day In History: February 15

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On February 15, 1953, Tenley Albright, a 17-year-old from Boston, becomes the first American female to win the world figure skating championship. All seven judges at the event at an outdoor rink in Davos, Switzerland give her a first-place vote. Albright, who contracted polio six years earlier, calls the performance her "best."

"Dressed in a light cherry-colored costume with spangles that glinted in the sun, Tenley whirled and spun around the rink, executing with disarming ease all the difficult skating manevuers in the book and some more of her own," the Associated Press reported.

Albright performed a double axel, double loop, double rittbereer and double solchow before a sellout crowd of 4,000. "Such combinations never have been seen performed before by a woman," a Swiss skating expert said.

After Albright's performance, her father, a surgeon, squashed thoughts of her becoming a professional skater. "Tenley has to go to college and is too young to become a professional star," he said. 

Said Albright: "I love skating for skating. I want to continue as an amateur."

Three years later, at the Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, Tenley became America's first female skating gold medalist, overcoming an injury to her right ankle suffered less than two weeks earlier. "I was in great pain, but I figured for four minutes I could put up with anything," she said afterward.

After the Olympics, Albright retired and attended Harvard Medical School—one of five women in a class of 135. She became a noted surgeon.