Gretchen Fraser skis to history

AP Photo/J. Walter Green

Known for her trademark pigtail braids, Gretchen Fraser became one of the breakout stars of the 1948 Olympic Games.

On this day in 1948, Gretchen Fraser became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing. The 28-year-old stunned the field by recording the fastest time on the first run of the slalom. Despite a delay caused by a problem with the timing system, Fraser managed to produce the second-fastest second run, which meant a relative unknown would stand atop the podium in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Fraser had won the silver medal in the alpine combined event the day before. The Washington native retired from competition after the Olympics and went on to become a mentor to many of America's brightest skiing stars, including Picabo Street and Susie Corrock. Fraser died in 1994, a month after her husband, fellow Olympic skier Don Fraser, had passed away. Today, "Gretchen's Gold" is a ski run at Sun Valley's Seattle Ridge named in her honor.