It is sometimes automatically assumed that Sonja Henie was the greatest female singles skater of the 1930's. However, when one takes a closer look, she was extremely fortunate to win the 1936 Olympics as Cecilia Colledge ran her a very close second. As Sandra Stevenson pointed out in her obituary on Colledge for the UK Independent on the 21st April 2008 (Link Here): after the School Figures, "the closeness [of the competition] infuriated Henie, who, when the result for that section was posted on a wall in the competitors' lounge, swiped the piece of paper and tore it into little pieces. The draw for the free skating [then] came under suspicion after Henie landed the plum position of skating last, while Colledge had to perform second of the 26 competitors. The early start was seen as a disadvantage, with the audience not yet whipped into a clapping frenzy and the judges known to become freer with their higher marks as the event proceeded. Years later, a fairer, staggered draw was adopted to counteract this situation".
British youngsters, Megan Taylor and Cecilia Colledge were Henie's closest competitors during the 1930's. Taylor and Colledge were both selected to compete for Great Britain at the 1932 Olympics - Colledge was 11 years and 68 days old at the start of the 1932 Olympics on the 4th Feb 1932 - 11 years and 73 days old at the start of the Ladies figure skating competition on the 9th Feb 1932, and Taylor was 11 years and 102 days old at the start of the Olympics - 11 years and 107 days old at the start of the Ladies figure skating competition. They were the youngest ever female competitors in any Olympic sport and the youngest ever competitors at the Winter Olympics. Taylor finished 7th and Colledge 8th. Taylor and Colledge went on to have a intense rivalry thereafter. Colledge finished a very close second to Henie at the 1936 Olympics (which Taylor unfortunately missed). Colledge would then go on to become World Champion in 1937 (beating Taylor into second place), but Taylor famously beat her into second place to become World Champion in 1938 (See attached photograph re the welcome she got after her win). Colledge gained her revenge though by beating Taylor in the 1939 British and European Championships in 1939, but missed the 1939 Worlds (due to an achilles tendon injury), thereby allowing Taylor to retain her world title. Without doubt, either Colledge or Taylor would have become Olympic champion in 1940, but tragically World War 2 deprived them of that opportunity.
An illustration of just how ardent the rivalry between Colledge and Taylor was, was that after Colledge beat Taylor into second place for the British title in 1938, Taylor congratulated Colledge and then immediately burst into tears - so upset was she! Their rivalry reached its zenith during 1937 - 1939. During this period, they competed against each other 8 times in British, European, and World Championships. Taylor finished second to Colledge on every occasion, except at the 1938 World Championships when she beat Colledge into second place in controversial circumstances. Hence, the head-to-head between them during 1937-39 was 7-1 in Colledge's favour. This is in stark contrast to the period 1932-34 when the head-to-head between the two was 6-0 in favour of Taylor (who beat Colledge into second place at all 3 British championships during that period. At both the 1932 Olympics and Worlds, Taylor finished 7th and Colledge 8th, and at the 1933 Worlds, Taylor finished 4th and Colledge 5th).
So how good were Sonja Henie, Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor when assessed from a modern perspective and which of the three was the best? Here is some footage of them (footage of their competitive careers obviously being very scarce):-
Sonja Henie and Cecilia Colledge - 1936 Olympics
Cecilia Colledge - Mini Doc (montage of career highlights)
Megan Taylor - Ice Capades 1942
Megan Taylor - Ice Capades 1942
Sonja Henie - Mini Doc of career highlights
Sonja Henie - Film: One in a Million
World War 2 (WW2) practically finished both Colledge's and Taylor's competitive careers, although Colledge returned after WW2, but then turned professional after just 1 year. Colledge drove an ambulance in the Motor Transport Corps during the London Blitz, moved permanently to the United States in 1951 (saying of Britain that "there was nothing left for me there except unhappy memories" - due to her experiences during WW2 and the death of her brother during the war), and pursued a distinguished career as a coach with the Skating Club of Boston between 1952 and 1977, coaching skaters such as Ron Ludington. Taylor spent much of the early 1940's with Ice Capades. However, after finishing with Ice Capades, not much is known about what she did thereafter and she died in Jamaica in 1993. Does anybody know what happened to Taylor after Ice Capades?