Belita Jepson-Turner

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameBelita Gladys Lyne•Jepson-Turner (-Riordan, -Kenny)
Used nameBelita•Jepson-Turner
Nick/petnamesThe Ice Maiden
Born21 October 1923 in Nether Wallop, Hampshire, England (GBR)
Died18 December 2005 in Montpeyroux, Puy-de-Dôme (FRA)
Measurements166 cm
NOC Great Britain


Belita Jepson-Turner was only 11 years-of-age when she was talked about as a possibility for the Great Britain figure skating team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She had brought a grace to the sport, which stemmed from her being a ballet dancer since the age of two. She was the daughter of Major William Jepson-Turner, who served as an officer in the Boer and Great Wars, and one of her great-grandfathers was responsible for building the early railways in Argentina in the mid-19th century. Belita’s mother was the daughter of one of King Edward VII’s physicians who made Belita take up ice skating to strengthen her legs, and her mother signed her up to skate at the Westminster Ice Rink in London.

The young Belita was duly selected for the Berlin Games and was 12y-112d at the time, one of the youngest ever British Olympians. Despite falling twice during her routine, she showed the character of a mature skater and carried on unperturbed, eventually finishing 16th. Shortly after the Olympics, Belita finished third in the British Women’s Figure Skating Championship, after an exquisite free skating routine. The following year she finished seventh in the World Championships at Earl’s Court, London, after another most graceful performance, which was handicapped after she fell and touched the ice with both hands, which cost her dearly.

Before the end of 1937 Belita had quit competitive skating to turn professional under the name Maria Belita, and one of her first paid performances was in the Rhapsody on Ice at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which opened on her 14th birthday. She also appeared with the legendary Alicia Markova. Following an accident, she went to the United States with her mother to receive treatment in California, before joining the New York Ballet Company, and toured the US for two years in the Ice Capades spectacular before being offered a Hollywood contract to go into the world of movies. After appearing in some low budget films, she first topped the bill in the 1944 movie “Lady, Let’s Dance”. After the War Belita returned to England and staged her own spectacular shows, including a water show with fellow Olympian Johnny Weismuller. By now she had dropped the Maria from her name and was known simply as “Belita”. She continued her movie career, working alongside the likes of Clark Gable and Gene Kelly, and toured with the Charles Laughton reparatory company in the US and Europe. Having retired from skating in 1956, she came out of acting retirement for one last film in 1963.

Belita was twice married, firstly to American actor Joel McGinnis Riordan (stage name Joel McGinnis), after which she used the name Belita McGinnis for a while. They were divorced in 1956, and in 1967 she married the Irish actor James Kenny (stage name James Berwick), but it would appear she did not use the name Berwick. Belita and James ran Crabtree Gardens, a London garden centre, from 1967 to 1983. Following his death in 2000 she went to live in France, where she died just before Christmas 2005.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Winter Olympics Figure Skating (Skating) GBR Belita Jepson-Turner
Singles, Women (Olympic) 16

Special Notes