My favorite event to watch during the Winter Olympics has always been women’s figure skating; I just love the athleticism and artistry of the Olympic ice skaters. This year, the U.S. women’s figure skating team features fifteen year old Polina Edmunds, eighteen year old Gracie Gold, and twenty-two year old Ashley Wagner. This will be the first Olympics for all of these highly talented women, who may be looking to previous female Olympic ice skaters for inspiration. There are certainly some very inspirational past women who have won medals for figuring skating, and the following are just a few.
A list of famous Olympic ice skaters would be incomplete without Dorothy Hamill, America’s sweetheart. Dorothy Hamill won the gold medal at the 1976 winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She was just 19 years old; yet, she made the decision to turn pro and began touring with Ice Capades. Hamill performed in the Ice Capades from 1977 to 1984. Adding to her impressive list of accomplishments, she was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame and the Figure Skating Hall of Fame! She has even written an autobiography and competed on Dancing with the Stars.
Even though I was in kindergarten, I can remember being so excited when Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France. I even wrote something about for my kindergarten journal. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Kristi was born with club feet and started figure skating when she was 6 as a part of physical therapy after corrective surgery. When I learned this, I was absolutely awe inspired. She clearly is someone who reaches for the stars, which is evident through the fact that she started a nonprofit organization for underprivileged, disabled, and at risk youth called the Always Dream Foundation. Aside from her nonprofit work, Kristi Yamaguchi has also toured with Stars on Ice and been inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame.
Oksana Baiul was raised by her grandmother and mother until she became an orphan at age 13, at which time she began to be cared for by her coaches. With such a tough childhood, it is amazing that Oksana became so successful. At the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway she became the youngest female to win a gold medal for women’s figure skating. She has since been dethroned as the youngest gold medal winner, but 16 is young no matter what. After winning the gold medal, Oksana started her own figure skating line, and has also been named as one of Barbara Walter’s most fascinating people.
Tara Lipinski now holds the title of the youngest female to win a gold medal in figure skating, which she won at the 1998 winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Tara began skating at age 6, which is absolutely astounding considering she won the gold just 9 years later. Talk about talent and hard work! Although she was so young when she won the gold medal, Tara decided to turn professional and performed with Stars on Ice for 8 years. She was inducted in to the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2006. This year, you can find her on NBC, where she is a correspondent for the Olympic Games.
I was lucky enough to see Sarah Hughes' gold medal performance when she won the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Watching her execute 7 perfect triple jumps in her long program was jaw dropping, especially since she was only 16. Sarah started ice skating when she was a toddler and spent a lot of time on the ice. After the Salt Lake City Olympics, Sarah retired from competing and went to Yale University, from where she has since graduated.
Although she never won a gold medal at the Olympics, Michelle Kwan did receive two Olympic medals. At the Olympics in Nagano she won silver, and four years later in Salt Lake City she won bronze, which is quite impressive. Equally impressive, if not more so, are the five world champion titles she holds. Since ending her skating career, Michelle went to the University of Denver and Tufts University, where she received a law and diplomacy Master’s degree. Currently, she works in the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Sasha Cohen is by far my favorite figure skater. She is incredibly beautiful and artistic on the ice, a true performer. While not the reason she is my favorite, I can’t forget to mention her incredible flexibility, which is behind her famous L-spin. Sasha competed in the Olympics in 2002 and 2006, winning the silver medal in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. Since that time she has performed with Stars on Ice, and even appeared on Project Runway. Sasha has also written an autobiography and is currently attending Columbia University.
I have watched the Olympic figure skating competitions since I was a very little girl, and I am very excited to see what the new group of athletes look like. However, I am not forgetting the past Olympians who have wowed at past games. Who is your favorite figure skater?
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