From an early age Tenley had two ambitions, to be a doctor and to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating. She started skating at 9 years of age, but was diagnosed with polio the next year. Although hospitalised and needing to remain inactive for several months, she returned to skating as therapy to regain muscle strength.
In 1952, at the age of 16, Tenley won the first of five consecutive US women’s singles titles in figure skating, and a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Norway. In 1953, she entered Radcliffe College to major in pre-medical studies. A highly disciplined student, she practiced skating from 4 to 6 a.m. daily, while managing to fit in classes, homework, studying, and ballet.
In 1955 she took a leave of absence to win her second world championship and became the first American woman to earn a gold medal in figure skating, in the Winter Olympics in Italy in 1956. Tenley retired from competitive skating afterwards but remained attached to figure skating as a sports functionary.
After the Olympics, she returned to her studies and entered Harvard Medical School, one of only five women in a class of 135. Despite the difficulties and the lack of role models, Albright enjoyed her training and graduated in 1961, working as a surgeon for the next 23 years. In 1982 she became a vice president of the US Olympic Committee.