March 24 was supposed to be the first induction ceremony of the Sun Valley Winter Sports Hall of Fame, but the worldwide coronavirus health crisis has delayed the ceremony for the foreseeable future.
The Community Library’s Jeanne Rodger Lane Center for Regional History has taken over and renamed the former Sun Valley Ski Hall of Fame produced since its origin in 2010 by the Ketchum Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Society.
Seeking to include all winter sports, the Center for Regional History decided to include contributors from a variety of winter sports, and so the inaugural Class of 2019 includes figure skaters as well as skiers, builders and other notables.
The Winter Sports Class of 2019 features Graham Anderson, Dick Dorworth, Sonya Dunfield, the late Averell Harriman, Bob Jonas, Doran Key, the late Herman Maricich and Jim Savaria.
In the weeks ahead, the Mountain Express will highlight members of the newest class starting with longtime Sun Valley figure skating coach Sonya Klopfer Dunfield, 85.
Dunfield was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame Jan. 23, 2009 during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland. “I have other awards but this was the most valuable to me,” Dunfield said in an article published in the Feb. 4, 2009 Express.
Dunfield’s inspiring skating career had humble beginnings.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y in Dec. 1934, Sonya Helen Klopfer was the first-generation daughter of immigrants who fled Hitler’s Germany to start a new life in America.
Her mother and three sisters started frequenting the Brooklyn Ice Palace, where Sonya’s talent for skating and love of the sport took hold.
Sonya’s noteworthy personal skating victories began in 1949 when she won the National Junior title. She qualified for the 1950 World Championships at Wembley, London, where she placed second in freeskating and fifth in figures.
She won the silver medal at the Senior Level in the 1950 U.S. Championships. One year later, at age 15, Dunfield captured the national gold medal and remained the youngest U.S. Senior ladies champion until Tara Lipinski won in 1997 at age 14.
Also in 1951, she won the bronze medal at the World Championships in Milan, Italy. In 1952, she concluded her competitive skating career in fourth place at the Oslo Olympics, where she was team captain. She added a silver medal at the 1952 World Championships.
Sonya’s distinguished amateur career opened doors in the world of professional figure skating.
She was a principal skater in “Ice Capades”, “Holiday on Ice” (taking the place of Sonja Henie), the Roxy Ice Theatre in New York and the Empress Ice Productions in London.
In 1964, she won the World Professional Championships. Many years later, at age 70, she was thrilled to skate to a standing ovation for her performance in “Legends on Ice.”
Dunfield became a world and Olympic coach, Master-rated in figures, free skating and ice dancing.
She holds a Senior rating in group instruction from the Professional Skaters Association, and has brought figure skaters to four Olympic Games and eight World Championships.
From the early 1960s until 1983, she coached with her husband Peter Dunfield in New York City at the Sky Rink. Then they moved to Gloucester Skating Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Her world-class students included 1988 Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Manley, whom she coached in Canada with Peter Dunfield, and 1994 world champion Yuka Sato.
The Dunfields coached Manley to three Canadian women’s singles titles plus World Championship silver. Manley won the long program at the 1988 Calgary Olympics and nearly upset favored gold medalist Katarina Witt of Germany.
Both Dunfields were inducted as builders into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame in 2001, the same year Manley made the same Hall of Fame.
Sonya’s most famous student was U.S. Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill. She coached Hamill from her fourth figures test through her first year competing in Senior Ladies in preparation for the Sapporo Olympics.
A longtime member of the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club, Dunfield coached for years in Sun Valley, where she and her husband resided full time. Peter Dunfield died in May 2014 at age 82.
In more than 60 years of devotion to the sport of figure skating, Dunfield received numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement and Honorary Members award and, with her husband, the Coaches Hall of Fame Award from the from the Professional Skating Association.
“I am lucky to be a skater,” Dunfield said. “I love to skate. It does something for my spirit.”
The public will be invited when the Sun Valley Winter Sports Hall of Fame holds its induction ceremony at the Community Library.
“The accomplishments of this year’s inductees take your breath away,” said Mary Tyson, Director of Regional History at the Ketchum-based library. “We look forward to celebrating these remarkable individuals with the community.”
For this year’s induction class, there were 13 nominees submitted through the public notification. Eight were chosen, and the five names of those not selected this year will be added to next year’s nomination list