The Most Memorable Moments in Olympic Figure Skating
Between the re-emergence of the Tonya Harding story via I, Tonya and the upcoming Winter Olympics, figure skating is back on the collective minds of sports fans around the globe. Although most people only pay attention to the sport once every four years, figure skating has had a long history that includes plenty of drama, athletic accomplishments and feel-good stories.
In honor of the Olympics kicking off in less than a month, we’ve compiled some of the most memorable figure skating moments of all time. Let’s get into it.
14-Year-Old American Skater Scotty Allen Wins Bronze at the 1964 Olympic Games
Despite not turning 15-years-old until two days after the Olympic finals, U.S. figure skater Scotty Allen was able to secure a bronze medal for his country in the 1964 games in Innsbruck, Austria. The New Jersey native’s medal performance made him the youngest medalist at the Winter Olympics, and it set multiple records that still stand to this day (Youngest Male Medalist and Youngest Individual Medalist).
Nancy Kerrigan Earns a Silver Medal in the 1994 Games
In a storyline that seems ripped straight out of a soap opera, skater Tonya Harding had her ex-husband and her personal bodyguard hire someone to injure fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan in order to improve Harding’s chances at making the Olympic roster. Harding had hoped that the attack would break Kerrigan’s leg so that she would be unable to compete but Shane Stant, the man she hired, was only able to bruise the leg. Both women were selected to represent the United States in the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway.
Amazingly, Kerrigan was able to recover in time to skate in the Olympics and ended up dramatically winning the silver medal. The incident between the two figure skaters has been a frequently discussed topic in the media, and a movie came out recently about Tonya Harding’s life.
Surya Bonaly Lands a Backflip on One Skate in the 1998 Olympics
One of the more spectacular moves that has ever taken place on the ice came in 1998, courtesy of three-time Olympian Surya Bonaly from France. After the short program, Bonaly found herself mathematically unable to win the gold medal. In her performance in the free skate, the French skater attempted and successfully landed a backflip on one blade. Bonaly had previously landed backflips in competitions before but the move was deemed illegal prior to the 1998 Olympics due to the high degree of danger. She was given a point deduction for doing the move but her execution of the backflip was flawless, providing one of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport.
Canada and Russia Figure Skating Pairs Become Embroiled in Controversy in 2002
The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City were a hotbed for controversy and scandal. The games themselves were the subject of a scandal in which it was revealed that some International Olympic Committee members accepted bribes from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee during the bidding process.
Interestingly enough, the pairs skating event came under scrutiny as well and ended up making headlines due to a scandal involving the judges. Going into the free skate, it appeared as though Canadians David Pelletier and Jamie Sale were neck-at-neck with the Russian duo of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. In the free skate, the Canadian pair performed a flawless routine while the Russians had stumbled just a bit. All signs pointed to the Canadians winning the gold medal but the judges strangely awarded it to the Russians.
It was later revealed that the French judge had been pressured to vote for the Russian pair and in exchange, the Russians would vote for France in the ice dancing event. The IOC eventually launched an investigation into the matter and ruled that both teams would share a joint gold medal for the event. After this controversy, the Olympics changed the way that their judging system worked in an effort to curb collusion attempts.