Peggy Fleming's Life Has Not Been As Smooth As Ice

Not only was Peggy Fleming a champion on ice from 1964 to 1968, but she waged a very personal war against breast cancer more than a decade ago and won that battle as well. An edited version of our interview with the Olympic gold medalist follows.

By Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
peggy fleming image
Aside from skating, Peggy Fleming loves a good slice of bread and butter.
Photograph: Courtesy of Robitussin

More: You're 63 and you look amazing. Tell us your secret.
Peggy Fleming: It is not all that complicated. We know what healthy food is and we know we need to keep moving by exercising because it is good for our bodies. I call it my fountain of youth.

More: What's your exercise routine?
PF: Being an athlete raised the bar in terms of maintaining my goals. I do a variety of things, like cardio, weight training and yoga.

More: Are you always in tip-top shape?
PF: I am not in tip-top shape all of the time. If I gain weight, I know what I need to stop doing. Not only does weight gain make my wardrobe dwindle, but I find I don’t have as much energy as I am used to. More importantly, I don’t feel good about myself.

More: When you indulge, what's your weakness?
PF: I love sourdough bread. Because I grew up on a farm in the Bay Area, in Morgan Hill, my mom made her own butter and ice cream. It was heaven. Give me bread and butter anytime.

More: Speaking of bread and butter, you and your husband [Greg Jenkins, a former physician] own a winery.

PF: We do. It is called Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery, in Los Gatos, California. We have been a bonded winery for seven years and my husband is our wine maker.

More: What sparked the interest in owning a winery?
PF: We appreciate good wine and good food, plus we had an extra acre of property. In the open space we planted some chardonnay and from there got more interested in the business of wine making.

More: Your wines are also raising money for a good cause?
PF: When we sell a bottle of our Victories Rosé wine, we donate $2 to breast cancer research. Over the past seven years we have given $56,000 to the cause. It seemed like a natural to call it Victories because I have had so many victories in my life—not only with my skating but because I overcame cancer.

More: Yes, you are survivor! 
PF: I am 13 years cancer free.

More: Does breast cancer run in your family? 
PF: No. But there is a lot of cancer on my mother’s side, and heart disease on my father’s side. I have to watch everything I do.

More: Take me back to the day you were diagnosed. 
PF: It's different today. Early detection is your best weapon. It also depends on what type of cancer you have and how long it has been there. I was lucky mine was caught early.

More: Do you fear it can come back?
PF: Oh, yes. I am diligent about getting my checkups. My best defense is getting regular routine exams and being at the doctor when I am supposed to be.

More: Do you get miserable when you get a cold? 
PF: I think most people do. And even if you feel terrible, sometimes you have to suck it up and still do what has to get done. But if you can have some medication ease this discomfort, it can make the unpleasantness less difficult to get through.

More: While we are on the subject of unpleasant moments, last year you were involved in a car accident with the Vice President Joe Biden. 
PF: I was at the winter Olympics and was part of the presidential delegation for the opening ceremony. I even hung out with the Bidens for a week and went to different events with them. Anyway, we were involved in a small motorcade accident.

More: Were you hurt?
PF: Luckily no one was hurt seriously and they took very good care of us. The Bidens travel with a physician and a nurse in their motorcade. They got to us before we even got out of the car. I was fine, but they did take me to the hospital to make sure everything was OK.

First Published February 7, 2012

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