In the mid-90’s, when my travel schedule was even busier than it is today, I used to find myself at Mineta San Jose International Airport just about every month. On one trip, as I hovered around the gate area for my flight, I suddenly saw Peggy Fleming! Not everyone may know who she is or what she is famous for, but Fleming is an American icon.
She is the 1968 Olympic Champion in Ladies’ singles and a three-time World Champion (1966–1968). In fact, at 19 years of age, Fleming was the only American to win a Gold Medal at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenobal, France. Since her Olympic triumph, Fleming has been a television commentator on figure skating for over 20 years, including several Winter Olympic Games. All that, combined with the fact that she’s a beautiful woman, makes her an exciting person to say hello to.
At the time, before iPhones with built-in cameras, I brought my digital camera in carry-on luggage on just about every trip. I immediately decided to approach Fleming to say hello, and ask for a photo together. When I first said hello, I’m not sure she understood I recognized her as a famous person! I quickly said “you are Peggy Fleming?” At that point, she understood why I had approached her. She seemed very down-to-earth, humble, and even a bit flattered that a “fan” would spot her at the airport like that some 30 years after her greatest success. I had seen her work as a sport commentator on ABC Sports and also highlights of her figure skating, so I knew who she was.
Fleming was very gracious and friendly. I asked her where she was headed, and she explained she was on her way to announce an ice skating competition for ABC Sports. I forget which competition as I write this. Fleming is the second Olympic Champion in Ladies’ figure skating singles that I’ve met at an airport. On another occasion, near baggage claim in another city, someone introduced me to 1992 Gold Medal winner (and future Dancing with the Stars champion) Kristi Yamaguchi. I’m not sure if Yamaguchi is shy or was just a bit tired after a flight, but she was no where near as friendly as Fleming.
After being approached by a total stranger, once I explained I recognized her, Fleming happily agreed to my request for a photo. I was excited, happy too as you can see in the photo (below). It’s nice when an American icon meets expectations. Peggy Fleming did that day.