|Birth: ||Feb. 11, 1919|
|Death: ||Feb. 17, 1994|
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA
GRETCHEN KUNIGK FRASER- Was an alpine ski racer. She was the first American to win an Olympics gold medal for skiing.
The daughter of German & Norwegian immigrants, Gretchen Kunigk was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1919. Her Norwegian mother,a Norwegian native and an avid skier, encouraged her children to take up skiing, and she began competeing in local races while in her teens, first skied at age 13, at Paradise on the south slopes of Mount Rainier in December 1932. She attended the University of Puget Sound from 1937 to 1939. Under the tutelage of Otto Lang she became a proficient ski racer and later completed on the ski term at the University of Puget Sound.
In 1938 she traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho to complete in the second Harriman Cup, a new international event featuring th best racers in the world. She met 1936 Olympian and Northwest ski champion Donald Fraser of the University of Washington on the train trip to central Idaho and their paths crossed frequently over the next year. They were married in October 1939 and Sun Valley became their home.
She was the skiing stand-in for ice skater Sonja Henie in the movives THIN ICE (1937) and SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941).
Fraser was a member of the 1940 Olympic team, games that were cancelled due to the World War II. She spent the war years skiing in Otto Lang's military training films and helping to rehabiliate wounded and disabled veterans thorugh skiing, setting the stage for a lifelong commitment to working with disabled skiers.
After the war, she finally got her chance to compete at the Winter Olympics. A week before her 29th birhtday, she won the gold medal in the women's slalom and a silver medal in the women's combined event at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She clocked the best time in the first run of the slalom. As she prepared to leave the starting gate for the second and final run, the timing system on the course malfunctioned, leaving her waiing in the gate for 17 minutes before she could start. She still managed to better her time and win the gold medal. She also won a silver medal in the Alpine cpmbined competition, which combines results from specially held slalom and downhill events.
Following the Olympics, She became an ambassador for Sun Valley (and skiing in general), easily recognized in her braided blonde pigtails. Later in life, she was a mentor to aspiring female ski racers at Sun Valley, including Susie Corrock, Chirstin Cooper, Picabo Street, and disabled skier Muffy Davis.
She was induced into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1960 and the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in Park City, Utah in the inagural class of 2002. She was also inducted into the State of Washington Sport Hall of Fame and the University of Puget Sound Hall of Fame.
"Gretchen's Gold" a ski run at Sun Valley's Seattle Ridge is named for her as well as a resturant in the Sun Valley Lodge "Gretchen's".
Gretchen Fraser died at age 75 in Febraury 1994 fittingly during the Winter Olympics held her mother's homeland of Norway. Her husband of 54 years, Donald Fraser died at a month earlier.
Donald W. Fraser (1913 - 1994)
Created by: SRBentz
Record added: Jul 31, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 40125880