I totally reject Sport Illustrated's list of thrilling skaters. I believe they actual should have consulted some knowledgeable people on the sport (read: US!!!!). Therefore, I've created my own, I believe superior, list as to who Figure Skating's Top 10 Most Thrilling are. I'll let all of you be the judge if this list indeed improves upon SI's.
10. Surya Bonaly - This nine time French National Champ, 5 time European Champ, and 3 time World Silver Medalist was always thrilling. Her jumping ability was formidable, often times attempting a quad salchow in her programs. Bonaly was also known to skate off the cuff, delivering different choreography almost every time she performed a program. She ‘thrilled’ audiences when, knowing she was out of medal contention, threw in an illegal back flip during her 1998 Olympic free skate (a trick she often landed on one foot!).
9. Brasseur and Eisler – This Canadian duo is known for ‘thrilling’ audiences with their high flying tricks on the ice. Every time the team won a Gold Medal, Lloyd Eisler got a new tattoo. The 1993 World Champions entered the 1994 Olympics after Isabelle cracked a rib. Despite the injury, they skated to a Bronze Medal. Isabel Brasseur re-injured her rib just prior to the World Figure Skating Championships that year and they still won the Silver. Lloyd is known for being very outspoken and went through a messy, well publicized divorce after having an affair with actress Kristy Swanson.
8. Toller Cranston - This 6-Time Canadian Champ broke the rules for men’s skating. When men’s skaters were rigid and controlled, Cranston let loose and was wildly artistic. Easily one of the biggest entertainers figure skating has ever seen, Toller Cranston is also known for speaking his mind rather anyone wants to hear it or not. His lack of skill in compulsory figures kept him from ever winning a World or Olympic Title (despite winning the free skate on multiple occasions), never the less one of figure skating’s biggest ‘thrillers.’
7. Kim Yu-Na – The sheer presence of Kim Yu-Na in an ice arena is ‘thrilling.’ Rarely has the sport seen a skater that can mesmerize an audience with astounding beauty and grace while pulling off a dizzying amount of triple jumps. With each jump she lands the audience gasps in awe and the room is absolutely electric when she’s on the ice.
6. Shen and Zhao – The first Chinese Pair Team to achieve international success, Shen and Zhao are possibly the most dynamic team to ever hit the ice. When Hongbo Zhao launches Xue Shen into the air, audiences are ‘thrilled’ by the height and distance she achieves and even more stunned when she lands the jump perfectly. The team’s individual jumps, lifts, and artistry are equally impressive. The team had, arguably, their greatest performance at the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships despite the fact that Xue had a sprained right ankle (yep…the one she lands on!).
5. Mao Asada – Mao Asada makes a Triple Axel look easy! The Japanese skating superstar who in every competition she enters is, at least, the co-favorite to win. This past season Mao Asada was on a mission to ‘thrill’ audiences and put two triple axels in her free skate, a feat she nearly completed (pesky jump downgrades did her in). Despite the occasional failure of the jump, she’s completed more triple axels in competition since she began competing as senior than all the previous successful attempts by women combined!
4. Jozef Sabovcik – They call him Jumpin’ Joe, Jozef Sabovcik was the six time Czech Champion, 1984 Olympic Bronze Medalist and is considered by many to be the first person to land a quad toe in competition. As a professional skater he continued to ‘thrill’ audiences with huge triple jumps and programs set to big rock ballads. His favorite programs were set to ‘The Boss,’ Bruce Springsteen.
3. Denise Biellmann – As I stated before, Denise Biellmann invented ‘thrilling’ for female skaters. The 1980 World Champ is the first female skater credited with landing a triple lutz in competition. While she was only 4th at the 1980 Olympics, she did win the free skate at that competition. Denise is also credited with popularizing the back breaking spin now named after her, The Biellmann Spin. Denise enjoyed a very successful skating career, remaining incredibly fit and performing triple jumps long after many of her contemporaries had stopped doing so. Denise is often found skating to beat pounding techno music that gets the crowd very excited.
2. Phillipe Candeloro – The Godfather, Napoleon, D’Artagnan…he’s been many characters. The four time French Champion and two time Olympic Bronze Medalist was always interesting to watch. His jump technique stunk but he was ‘thrilling’ to watch because he often times managed to pull of performances that were just amazing. His 1994 Olympic Free Skate to ‘The Godfather’ remains one of the most memorable in skating history. Candeloro, during his professional career, continued his style of adopting characters. He’s been, among others, John Travolta, Tarzan, and Bravehart. Candeloro is also known for shedding clothes during his performances.
1. Elvis Stojko – Stojko reinvented ‘thrilling’ in figure skating when he made quad jumps mainstays in figure skating during the 90s. He up’d the ante when he completed two quad jumps in his free skate at the 1997 World Figure Skating Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. Apart from his ability to do the quad, Stojko was also incredibly consistent on all the other triple jumps, leading him to a bevy of gold medals throughout his career. He had a signature style that often got him trouble with the judges who didn’t find him artistic enough, notably at the 1994 Olympics where he narrowly missed a Gold Medal to Alexei Urmanov. Ironically, at the 1998 Olympics, Stojko again had to settle for Silver because he didn’t complete a quad while Ilia Kulik did.