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Gretchen Fraser, trendsetter and mentor

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When the women's combined slalom race began at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St Moritz, Gretchen Fraser was not exactly a medal contender. The 28-year-old American had struggled to make the selection and finished eleventh in the downhill. It could be said that her best days were behind her.

The daughter of German and Norwegian immigrants, Fraser (née Kunigk) had skied for the first time at the age of 16, quickly becoming skilled enough to qualify for the Olympics in 1940 and 1944. Though both Games fell victim to the Second World War, Fraser didn't need the Olympic insignia to become a skiing celebrity. As a stunt woman for Sonja Henie, she appeared in the films Thin Ice (1937) and Sun Valley Serenade (1941).

But on that February day in the Swiss Alps, the US star skied the slalom of her life, finishing second and winning a surprise silver medal in the combined event. It was the first alpine silver medal for the USA.

And it only got better. A day later, Fraser showed all her class and experience in the slalom: leading after the first run and finishing runner-up in the second. That meant gold: the USA's first Olympic victory in alpine skiing.

Back home, Fraser was greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York and honoured in her hometown of Tacoma, Washington, in Vancouver, and in Portland, Oregon. Although Fraser called time on her career later that year, she remained associated with skiing as an ambassador for Sun Valley, coach of the 1952 Olympic team and mentor to future generations of athletes.