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Surya Bonaly, Revolutionary Figure Skater

March 27, 2018

Surya Bonaly, Revolutionary Figure Skater

Guest post by Deanna Straw

Taking risks and thinking outside of the box is never easy, especially when you’re an athlete in one of the strictest and most critically judged sports in the world. Competitive French figure skater Surya Bonaly — 3 time World Silver Medalist and 9 time French National champion — is famous for doing just that.

During the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Bonaly was nursing an injury and fell out of gold medal contention, so she decided to call an audible. If she couldn’t win the gold or the judges, she’d win the crowd! She performed a backflip. Not just any backflip, but one she landed on ONE BLADE!

Olympic commentator Scott Hamilton immediately said the move was illegal. He said, “She’s doing it to get the crowd. She’s going to get nailed [by the judges].” However, Hamilton — known for his own backflips in shows — admitted that he had NEVER landed a flip on one blade in 14 years, as Bonaly just had.

Bonaly started as a gymnast and moved into competitive figure skating and was the FIRST WOMAN to attempt a quadruple jump in a competition.

Bonaly recently shared her story with the TED audience at TEDx Torino. She said,“I decided to do the best element I could, and did the backflip.” As a pioneer in sports, she wanted to be the FIRST SKATER EVER to do a backflip on Olympic Ice. “My time in the Olympics taught me that we can have respect, sportsmanship, competition and peace.”

Currently Bonaly is a full-time coach in Minnesota. She was invited to perform in North Korea three times and as such believes that she is also an ambassador for peace. She said that although the North Koreans were very reserved, they were respectful and able to accept her as a, “black, French woman with an American address. Sports break down barriers sometimes better than governments.” “As an ambassador for peace,” she says, “hopefully I will inspire many lives for the future.”






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