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 Look back at the 1948 Winter Games.

  Mrs. Fraser, Dick Button Pace Yanks

By Ted Smits
Associated Press
Friday, February 6, 1948; Page B5

 In 1948, Dick Button became the first American to win a figure skating title and is credited with being the first to complete a double Axel in Olympic competition.
(AP File Photo)
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland, Feb. 5 — Climaxing an amazing comeback, America's men and women athletes dominated the seventh day of the winter Olympics as they swept to clean-cut victories in two events, placed second in another and vaulted from seventh to third place in team standing.

It was an historic day for the Red, White and Blue from the moment Mrs. Gretchen Fraser, the flying housewife from Vancouver, Wash., flashed across first in the women's special slalom until Dick Button of Englwood, N.J., won the men's figure skating as the sun set over the snowclad Alps.

Their triumphs were the first ever scored by Americans either in skiing or figure skating since the winter Olympics were born in 1924.

G.I. Scores
In between Mrs. Fraser's two breathless descents of Mount Piz Nair and Button's almost flawless performance in the free skating, Jack Heaton of New Haven, Conn., presented Uncle Sam with a second place silver medal in the dangerous Cresta one-man sled race, and Will Martin: a 19-year-old American G.I. with the occupation forces in Germany, slammed across fourth in the same event.

Possibly the day's most dramatic moment came as Hans Gerschwiler of Switzerland, the world's figure skating champion, was trying desperately to overcome the lead Button had taken over him on Monday in compulsory figures. In the midst of a graceful, original maneuver, the Swiss star slipped, his skates flew up and he fell. At that instant the 18-year-old Button became the Olympic champion.

The pretty, shy Mrs. Fraser was the first of 31 girls to plummet down the zigzag slalom course in the cold early morning, and she through an additional chill into her rivals by making her first run in 59.7 seconds. The nearest any girl came to equaling it was Erika Mahringer of Austria — one-tenth of a second slower.

Mrs. Fraser All Alone
Then came her second run, and the 28-year-old American matron really opened the throttle. Cutting the corners crisply, she sped down under perfect control in 57.5. Antoinette Meyer of Switzerland finished second with a total of 1:7.7 for her two descents.

Two of Button's American teammates, 18-year-old John Lettingarver of St. Paul, Minn., and James Grogan, 16, of Oakland, Calif., turned in figure skating performances good enough to place them "in the points" under the Associated Press unofficial scoring system.

Lettingarver gained fourth place. Grogan placed sixth.

The Amateur Hockey Association team representing the United States in the unofficial ice hockey tournament caught a sound 12-to-3 thrashing from Canada — its second defeat of the tournament — and was virtually eliminated.

This morning the women's school figures were completed, and Barbara Ann Scott of Canada, the world champion, took a strong lead over the field to bring her close to the crown won in 1936 by Sonia Henie.

Barbara Ann made 858.1 points to 842.1 for Jeannette Altwegg of Great Britain, in second place. Gretchen Merrill of Boston, the American champion, placed highest of the United States contingent — sixth place, with 798 points.

© Copyright 1948 The Washington Post Company

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