With the arrival of the Olympic season, it appears that figure skating is currently making a comeback. With the days chock full of excitement about knee whackings, Nancy Kerrigan, and Tonya Harding long gone, appreciation for the sport had appeared to fizzle. Many spectators take one look at the glitzy, expensive costumes and scoff, writing off figure skating as a grotesque cross between the dance world and a beauty pageant.
Figure skating has a long history; archaeological evidence has supported the sport’s existence as far back as prehistoric times. Olympic figure skating debuted at the 1908 games hosted by London, England. Ulrich Salchow, for whom the Salchow jump is named, skated away with the first gold medal in the Olympic history of the sport. In the years following the games, there was an increase in recreational skating as opposed to purely athletic; large, public rinks were built and embellishments, such as jumps and spins, were invented.
The original dominators of the sport came from northern and central Europe: Germany, Sweden, Norway, Austria, and even Russia. However, as Europe experienced wartime turmoil during the 1930s-40s, skaters from the United States and Canada were able to get their skates in the door of international competition and renown.
Eventually, the United States became synonymous with greatness in the world of figure skating. Dick Button, the first skater to complete the double axel and a triple jump in competition, is widely accepted as one of the first American figure skating legends. He is credited with the invention of performance elements and highly esteemed for his shining competition record. His trophy cabinet consists of back-to-back Olympic golds in ’48 and ‘52, five consecutive wins at the World Championships [’48-’52], and the distinction of being the only non-European male skater to win the European Championship.
Other notable names throughout subsequent decades include the likes of Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen, and Evan Lysacek—all of whom have won the U.S. Figure Skating Championship and have at least medaled at an Olympic Games. Additionally, Long Island’s own Sarah Hughes won Olympic gold in 2006.
1. Gracie Gold
Hometown: Springfield, Illinois
Trains: Los Angeles, California
Coached by the legendary former competitor Frank Carroll, Gracie is certainly hoping to live up to her colorful name. She debuted on the senior circuit just one season ago and has been drawing Olympic buzz right from the get-go. Gracie blew her competition out of the water at the recent U.S. National Championship, setting records with both of her scores—short and long programs—and winning the gold by 18.06 points.
2. Polina Edmunds
Hometown: San Jose, California
Trains: San Jose, California
Polina is the youngest member of the U.S. Figure Skating delegation, but certainly compensates with her incredibly mature style of skating. She was probably the biggest shock of the day in the Ladies division of the U.S. National Championship, earning 2nd place at her age. However, Polina is probably the perfect candidate to give Russia’s 15 year old Julia Lipnitskaya a skate for her money.
3. Ashley Wagner
Hometown: Heidelberg, Germany (U.S. Army base)
Trains: Aliso Viejo, California
Having just missed making the 2010 Olympic team, many are speculating that 2014 is Ashley’s year to shine. Placing 4th at the U.S. National Championship in early January, Ashley was a surprising selection (as well as controversial—3rd place competitor Mirai Nagasu has filed an official complaint, claiming racial discrimination). However, her competition record, along with her majestic poise and elegance on the ice, earned Ashley the well-deserved final spot on the team. She will definitely be one to watch.
1. Jeremy Abbott
Hometown: Aspen, Colorado
Trains: Detroit, Michigan
Out of the entire U.S. Figure Skating team, Jeremy Abbott undoubtedly has the most experience under his belt. The 28 year old is also the most decorated on the team with four national championship wins, among other distinctions. Sochi will be his second Olympic appearance, where he is understood to be towards the top of the men’s pack with the likes of Canada’s Patrick Chan and the Russian legendYevgeny Plushenko.
Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois
Trains: Monument, Colorado
Jason Brown is without a doubt the most electrifying member of the U.S. Figure Skating Team. His performance at the recent U.S. National Championship to the popular Riverdance tune “Reel Aroundthe Sun” by Bill Whelan brought the house down and earned a standing ovation before it was over! Jason skates with such passion and excitement that he keeps the audience hanging on every move; it’s impossible to look away from his performance for even a second. Aside from his ability to connect with his audience, Jason is unique because he is the only male skater without a quadruple jump (considered a “must” to win in contemporary skating), although many people are now saying that he may be the only skater who doesn’t need one.
By: Emma Tapada
Part of the SJC Talon Winter Olympics 2014 Series
Men’s Single Skate:
- Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan, breaks record for first gold medal for japan in figure sakting)
- Silver: Patrick Chan (Canada)
- Bronze: Denis Ten (Kazakstan) first Olympic medal in figure skating for that country
Women’s Single Skate:
- Gold: Adelina Sotnikova (Russia)
- Silver: Kim Yu-na (Korea)
- Bronze: Carolina Kostner (Italy)