Get ready to glide across the ice as we journey through the fascinating world of figure skating and celebrate the greatest talents to have ever graced the rink. In this article, titled ‘From Champions on Ice to Legends in History: Discovering the Top 10 Figure Skaters of All Time,’ we will dive into the lives and achievements of the most exceptional figures in the sport. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply curious about figure skating, this captivating exploration will leave you in awe of the dedication, skill, and artistry possessed by these athletes.
From elegant spins and gravity-defying jumps to breathtaking choreography, these figure skaters have pushed boundaries, set records, and left an indelible mark on the sport. We will delve into their mesmerizing performances, their inspiring stories, and their lasting legacies, uncovering what makes them stand out among the countless skaters in history.
#10: Patrick Chan
Patrick Chan is a Canadian figure skater known for his graceful performances and technical prowess. Born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1990, Chan’s journey to becoming one of the top figure skaters of all time began at a young age. He showed immense talent and dedication, training under renowned coaches to refine his skills.
Chan’s breakthrough came in 2008 when he won his first national title in Canada. This victory marked the beginning of a successful career that would see him win numerous championships and compete at the highest level of competition, including the Winter Olympics. Chan’s elegant style and flawless execution of jumps and spins have captivated audiences around the world, earning him a loyal fan base and a place among the greatest figure skaters in history.
Despite facing fierce competition from other talented skaters, Chan’s ability to consistently deliver exceptional performances sets him apart. His commitment to artistic expression and technical precision has earned him multiple world titles and Olympic medals. Chan’s impact on the sport extends beyond his own achievements, as he has inspired a new generation of figure skaters to push their limits and reach for greatness.
In addition to his individual accomplishments, Chan has also made significant contributions to the sport of figure skating as a whole. His unique style of skating, which emphasizes the use of the edges of the blades, has been highly appreciated for its artistry and elegance. He has set multiple world records under the ISU Judging System, including breaking the 100-point barrier in the short program and the 200-point barrier in the free program.
#9: Katarina Witt
Katarina Witt, hailing from East Germany, is widely regarded as one of the most successful figure skaters in history. Born in 1965, Witt’s natural talent and charismatic presence on the ice quickly set her apart from her peers. She dominated the sport throughout the 1980s, showcasing her exceptional skills and captivating audiences worldwide.
Witt’s career reached its peak during the Winter Olympics in 1984 and 1988, where she claimed gold in both events. Her performances were a perfect blend of technical proficiency and artistic expression, leaving spectators in awe. Witt’s ability to connect with the audience through her emotional performances made her a fan favorite and solidified her status as a figure skating legend.
Off the ice, Witt’s impact on the sport of figure skating goes beyond her athletic achievements. She became a symbol of resilience and determination, representing East Germany during the Cold War era. Witt’s success and charisma transcended the political tensions of the time, bringing people together through the universal language of figure skating.
After her success in competitive figure skating, Katarina Witt transitioned to a professional skating career.
She began touring with the Ice Capades in 1988 and later joined the Stars on Ice tour, where she skated alongside other world-renowned skaters.
As a professional skater, Witt continued to innovate and push the boundaries of the sport.
She also starred in the television special Carmen on Ice, a performance that garnered her an Emmy Award.
In 1995, Witt was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Her farewell from the show skating tour took place in February and March 2008.
Her achievements and influence have left a lasting impact on the sport, inspiring many young skaters to strive for excellence.
#8: Karl Schäfer
Karl Schäfer was born on May 17, 1909. He was a two-time Olympic champion at the 1932 Winter Olympics and the 1936 Winter Olympics.
He was also a seven-time World champion (1930–1936) and eight-time European champion (1929–1936).
After retiring from competitive skating in 1936, Schäfer moved to the United States for a couple of years, where he worked as a coach. In 1938, he opened a sports store in Vienna.
In 1940, he and Herta Wächter (also a figure skating coach) founded the “Karl-Schäfer-Eisrevue” (Karl Schäfer Ice Revue).
After World War II, Schäfer participated in rebuilding Engelmann’s ice rink, and from 1946 on he coached young skaters there. He moved again to the U.S. in 1956 and worked there as a figure skating coach until 1962.
#7: Tara Lipinski
Tara Lipinski burst onto the figure skating scene in the mid-1990s, capturing the hearts of fans around the world with her precocious talent and infectious personality. Born in 1982, Lipinski’s rise to stardom was nothing short of meteoric.
At the age of 15, Lipinski became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in women’s figure skating history, a record that still stands today. Her technical prowess and fearlessness on the ice set her apart from her competitors. Lipinski’s ability to execute difficult jumps with ease and grace made her performances unforgettable.
Lipinski’s impact on the sport extended beyond her Olympic triumph. She inspired a new generation of young skaters, proving that age should never be a barrier to success.
After her Olympic victory, Lipinski decided not to participate in the 1998 World Championships in March, and in early April she announced that she was turning professional.
She won every competition she entered during her professional career and was the youngest skater to win the World Professional Figure Skating Championships.
She performed in live shows before retiring from figure skating in 2002. Lipinski began her broadcast career commentating on Figure Skating for Universal Sports in 2010.
She then transitioned to NBC and NBC Sports in 2011, where she has covered almost every international skating competition that has aired on the network.
#6: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, a Canadian ice-dancing duo, captivated the world with their remarkable chemistry and unrivaled talent. Born in 1989 and 1987 respectively, Virtue and Moir began skating together at a young age, forging a partnership that would redefine ice dancing.
The duo’s performances were marked by their seamless synchronization, innovative lifts, and intricate footwork. Virtue and Moir’s ability to convey emotion through their movements brought a new level of artistry to ice dancing.
They are the 2010 and 2018 Olympic champions, the 2014 Olympic silver medalists, a three-time World champion (2010, 2012, 2017), a three-time Four Continents champion (2008, 2012, 2017), the 2016–17 Grand Prix Final champion, an eight-time Canadian National champion (2008–2010, 2012–2014, 2017–2018), the 2006 World Junior champion and the 2006 Junior Grand Prix gold medalists.
Virtue and Moir are also the 2018 Olympic gold medalists in the team event and the 2014 Olympic silver medalists in the team event.
Upon winning their third Olympic gold medal, they became the most decorated Canadian ice dance team of all time and the most decorated Olympic figure skaters of all time. They are widely regarded as one of the greatest ice dance teams of all time.
#5: Scott Hamilton
Scott Hamilton, an American figure skater, is not only known for his incredible athletic prowess but also for his indomitable spirit and inspiring story.
Born in 1958, Hamilton faced numerous challenges throughout his career, including health issues and setbacks.
He won four consecutive U.S. championships (1981–84), four consecutive World Championships (1981–84), and a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. His signature move, the backflip, a feat few other figure skaters could perform at the time, is against U.S. Figure Skating and Olympic competition rules.
Yet, he would include it in his exhibition routines as an amateur to please the crowd.
Later, he also used the backflip in his professional competition routines.
He is widely recognized for his innovative footwork sequences.
In retirement, he has been involved in charitable work and is the author of three books. He was the world professional champion in 1984 and 1986, and he continued to win professional titles into the 1990s.
In 1986 he helped form Stars on Ice, a touring figure-skating company.
He also worked as a television analyst for the U.S. national championships and for the Olympics.
His achievements and influence have left a lasting impact on the sport, inspiring many young skaters to strive for excellence.
#4: Yuzuru Hanyu
Yuzuru Hanyu, a Japanese figure skater, has taken the world by storm with his extraordinary talent and artistic brilliance. Born in 1994, Hanyu’s career has been marked by his ability to combine technical precision with emotional depth, captivating audiences with every performance.
He is a two-time Olympic champion (2014, 2018), a two-time World champion (2014, 2017), a four-time Grand Prix Final champion (2013–2016), the 2020 Four Continents champion, the 2010 World Junior champion, the 2009–10 Junior Grand Prix Final champion, and a six-time Japanese national champion (2012–2015, 2020–2021).
He has broken world records nineteen times—the most times among single skaters since the introduction of the ISU Judging System in 2004.
He is the first man to have received over 100 points in the men’s short program, over 200 points in the men’s free skate, and over 300 total points in the competition.
Upon winning his first Olympic title, Hanyu became the first Asian men’s singles skater to win the Olympic gold.
#3: Michelle Kwan
Michelle Kwan, an American figure skater, is widely regarded as one of the greatest female skaters in history. Born in 1980, Kwan’s career spanned from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, during which she dominated the sport with her grace, technical proficiency, and artistic interpretations.
She is a two-time Olympic medalist (silver in 1998, bronze in 2002), a five-time World champion (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003) and a nine-time U.S. champion (1996, 1998–2005). She is tied with Maribel Vinson for the all-time National Championship record.
Known for her consistency and expressive artistry on ice, she is widely considered one of the greatest figure skaters of all time.
For well over a decade, Kwan maintained her status not only as America’s most popular figure skater but also as one of America’s most popular female athletes.
Following her figure skating career, Kwan became active in politics, particularly with the Democratic Party.
In January 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Kwan to be the U.S. Ambassador to Belize.
#2: Nathan Chen
He is the 2022 Olympic champion, a three-time World champion (2018, 2019, 2021), the 2017 Four Continents champion, a three-time Grand Prix Final champion (2017, 2018, 2019), a ten-time Grand Prix medalist (8 golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze), the 2022 Olympic silver medalist in the team event, the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist in the team event, and a six-time U.S. national champion (2017–22).
At the junior level, Chen is the 2015–16 Junior Grand Prix Final champion, 2013–14 Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, 2014 World Junior bronze medalist, and a six-time Junior Grand Prix medalist (5 golds, 1 silver).
Chen, who is regarded as one of the greatest figure skaters of all time, holds the highest winning percentage in competitions in the modern era with a more-than-three-year winning streak from 2018 to 2021 in what has been described as one of the most dominant four-year stretches in the sport’s history.
Chen is recognized for performing the most technically difficult programs in the world and is credited for exceeding the expectations of athletic ability in the sport; he is known as the “Quad King” for his mastery of quadruple jumps.
He is the first skater to have landed all types of quadruple jumps, except the quadruple Axel, in competition.
He has broken world and national records, and is the current world record holder for men in all three competition segments: the short program, free skate, and combined total score under the ISU Judging System.
He currently holds the highest total scores of the major ISU competitions: the Olympics, the World Championships, the Four Continent Championships, and the Grand Prix Final.
Chen is the first Asian American man to win U.S., world, and Olympic titles in single skating.
#1: Sonja Henie
Sonja Henie is often considered the greatest female figure skater of all time.
She was a three-time Olympic champion (1928, 1932, 1936) in women’s singles, a ten-time World champion (1927–1936), and a six-time European champion (1931–1936). Henie has won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies figure skater.
She is one of only two skaters to defend a ladies’ singles Olympic title, the other being Katarina Witt, and her six European titles have only been matched by Witt.
At the height of her acting career, she was one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood and starred in a series of box-office hits, including Thin Ice (1937), Happy Landing, My Lucky Star (1938), Second Fiddle (1939), and Sun Valley Serenade (1941).
In 1941, Henie, who was twice married to U.S. citizens, herself became a citizen of the United States.
In her later years, she was noted as a collector and patron of modern art.
With her third husband, the Norwegian shipowner Niels Onstad, she established (1968) the Henie Onstad Art Center, a museum of modern art in Høvikodden, near Oslo, Norway.
Her achievements and influence have left a lasting impact on the sport, inspiring many young skaters to strive for excellence.
As we conclude our journey through the top 10 figure skaters of all time, it becomes clear that these athletes have left an indelible mark on the sport. Their dedication, skill, and artistry continue to inspire current and future generations of figure skaters. From Patrick Chan to Sonja Henie, each skater has contributed to the evolution and advancement of figure skating, solidifying their place in history as true legends of the sport. So next time you watch a figure skating performance, take a moment to appreciate the incredible talents and enduring legacies of these remarkable athletes.