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Thread: "Legend" - who really is one?

  1. #1

    "Legend" - who really is one?

    IMO, the label "legend" is sometimes much overused. Skaters can be legendary in the skating world without being well-known at all in the rest of society. Some skaters win lots of medals, some are very popular, some create new elements, some invoke sympathy, some have a great story. Not everyone is a legend though. I think it's almost impossible to say that Skater X who still competes is already a legend. Maybe they will be considered one in the future, but not yet, not while they are still at their peak.

    Some skaters I would consider legendary, and why:

    Madge Syers (Great Britain) - the first lady who ever competed in world figure skating. Entered the 1902 Championships when all the competitors were men and no woman had ever competed. Placed second to Ulrich Salchow, although many thought she might have won, and Salchow himself apparently later presented her with his medal. Women were immediately banned from competing, but a few years later they introduced a women's competition, which Madge won twice, and she also won the first Olympic gold medal for women's figure skating. A pioneer.

    Sonja Henie (Norway) - the most famous figure skater of all time. 10 World Titles, 3 Olympic Gold Medals. Increased the visability and popularity of skating to a great extent, and became the first skater to make a financially rewarding career as a professional. Became the first woman to include jumping in her skating routines, introduced the element of dance choreography, and even pioneered the short skating skirt.

    Dick Button (USA) - 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 5 World Titles. Youngest man ever to win the Olympics, at 18. Invented, and became the first to perform, several skating manouvers that are now performed worldwide, including the flying camel, flying sit spin, jump sit spin, double axel, triple loop, and double jump combination (two double loops).

    Belousova & Protopopov (Soviet Union) - 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 4 European Titles, 4 World Titles. Renowned for their rarely matched sense of unison and elegance. Gave an impression of effortless in performing moves, never seen before. Introduced the inside edge death spiral (more difficult than outside edge, which was the norm). Were considered "old" as competitors (won their 2nd Olympic gold aged 36 and 33 respectively), continued to perform and compete professionally until they were in their sixties. Introduced new style to pairs skating.

    Irina Rodnina (Soviet Union) - 3 Olympic Golds with two partners, 10 World Titles with two partners. Took pairs skating to a new level of dynamic speed and athletic energy.

    Torvill & Dean (Great Britain) - 4 World Titles, Olympic Gold and Bronze (achieved 10 years later), 4 European Titles. Constantly challenged the limits and expectations of dance, becoming regarded as the greatest ice dancers of all time. Highest ever tally of 6.0 marks in any discipline - highest in a single performance (13, free dance at 84 Worlds), highest in a single competition (29, 84 Worlds), highest in a career (156). Changed and revolutionised the face of ice dancing and choreography. Their signature dance, Bolero, is the most famous ice skating routine in history.

    Gordeeva & Grinkov (Soviet Union/Russia) - 2 Olympic Golds (6 years apart), 4 European Titles, 4 World Titles. World Junior Champions at the age of 12 and 16 respectively. Brought a new dimension to pairs skating with their combination of delicate grace and powerful athletic feats, with an intimacy to their performances brought on by their unison off-ice.

    Skaters who could be seen as icons:

    Ulrich Salchow
    Axel Paulsen
    Toller Cranston
    John Curry
    Katarina Witt
    Kurt Browning
    Oksana Baiul
    Elvis Stojko
    Tara Lipinski (pushed the envelope technically, and was nothing short of a phenomenon to achieve what she did at such a young age).

    Michelle Kwan is certainly seen as an icon now, and could well be considered a legend in the future.

    Some skaters will be considered iconic in their home country but not so much in the rest of the world, e.g. Janet Lynn, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Barbara Ann Scott, etc.

    JMHO. Any thoughts?

  2. #2

    Re: "Legend" - who really is one?

    Interesting analysis, Icenut. I certainly can't disagree with anyone on your legends list.

    I wonder if Jackson Haynes deserves a mention? He brought the "American style" of free skating to Europe, where it quickly became the "European (or Viennese) style." This emphasis on flow over the ice as opposed to the precision of school figures infused the sport of figure skating with it's dual nature for more than a century.

    Ironically, Hayne's style of skating was downplayed in the United States, which historically stood firmly with England in its view that figure skating was <strong>figure</strong> skating, as opposed to the innovations that were underway on the continent. When the ISU finally decided to eliminate figures from world championship competitions, the U.S., Canada and Great Britain objected, but lost out to the majority led by the Soviet Union and representatives from continental Europe.

    I would also put in a vote for both Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton as skaters whose influence reached far beyond what they did on the ice. This however, as you say, may be more of an American than a world-wide phenomenon. Peggy was the first skater to appear regularly on television, and thus provided millions of people with their first exposer to ice skating as a spectator sport.

    Scott Hamilton is an "icon" as a businessman, entrepreneur and impresario for everything that he has achieved in the business end of the sport. This is, of course, on top of his Olympic gold medal, his four World Championships and his "body of work" as a professional entertainer.


  3. #3
    Show 42

    Re: "Legend" - who really is one?

    It would seem some interpretation of the word "legend" is needed. "Webster's New World Dictionary" says that legend can mean, "a story handed down through the years and connected with some real events, but probably not true itself" (Paul Bunyan and Hercules could fit the bill here), or it also means "a remarkable person who is much talked about while still alive" this definition, it would cancel out all "non-living" beings........I guess it's just a matter of interpretation (or what dictionary you happen to pick up.... 42

  4. #4

    Re: "Legend" - who really is one?

    Show - Your dictionary defs are ok. Mythical tales abound in all the histories of all the countries, towns and villages.

    The second definition you mentioned:it also means <em>"a remarkable person who is much talked about while still alive"</em> and I think that it implies that after death, too.

    So it seems we have both Legends of the By-gone Days and present day Legends who are much talked about. Does Garbo have more legendary status than Liz Taylor? if indeed Liz has legendary status.

    Ice - Your list is more than adquate but I would insist on adding John Curry who changed the face of Male Figure Skating forever.


  5. #5

    Nice topic

    <blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>I think it's almost impossible to say that Skater X who still competes is already a legend[/quote]

    From Webster dictionary
    1 a : a story coming down from the past; especially : one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable b : a body of such stories <a place in the legend of the frontier> c : a popular myth of recent origin d : a person or thing that inspires legends

    Indeed it is difficult to call someone a legend who is still competing. Earl Woods comment on Tiger, "Let the legend grow". Tiger is not considered as a legend yet, but will he be one someday? I am willing to bet he will, and I don't even follow golf.

    The definition of legend is very subjective. I think legends give legendary performances. OTOH, athlete who gives a legendary performce may or may not become a legend.

    Returning to my favorite topic music. Violinist David Oistrakh gave a legendary performance in Leningrad 1942. The city was under siege, dominated by hunger, cold, unrest, air raid and attack. Oistrakh "When I played the canzonetta from Tchaikovsky's cto, the air raid sirends began to wail, but not one single person rose from their seat and so I played the cto through to the end". This is a legendary story that is past from one generation of music lovers to the next. If Oistrakh died or stop playing in 1942, IMHO, he may not have achieved legend status. He achieved that status later because of his devotion to his music, his inspiration to young musicians including Rostopovich. He dared to challenge the Soviet authorities when the powers decided yank Rostropovich (becuase of political reasons) from the Beethoven triple cto performance (with Oistrakh and Richter) Oistrakh and Richter told the powers either Rostopvich play or we walk. IMO legends is not about medal count, or popularity. One needs to be totally devoted to his/her art/ sport. One needs to have <span style="color:red;font-size:large;">HEART</span>

    Michelle Kwan has all the ingredients to be a legend. I consider her win in the championship series in Paris 96 under the threat of her life as a legendary performance. I consider her win in 01 worlds legendary, because of the boot problem in the QR. She does not talk about that much, and her PR team does not blow horns about it either. <span style="color:red;font-size:small;">"She has more heart than any skater" Peggy</span>. I think someday in the future little boys and girls who are lacing up their skates and try to seek inspiration will remember Michelle as a legend.

    PS Since figure skating is a sport I expect most skaters/ athletes who achieve legend status are limited to their own country. Same goes with popularity. Come on be serious, Michael Jordan is a legend in basketball, do you really expect the majority of the folks in China to like him better than Yao Ming? Shaq may achieve legend status someday, he is somewhat of an icon in the States. Do you really expect the majority of the folks in China to adore him more than Yao Ming? These 2 will probably representing their countries in the Olympics in 2004.

    There is nothing wrong with an athlete not being popular or less popular in another country. .

  6. #6


    IMHO <strong>real</strong> "legends" are capable to bring audiences up on their feet in almost <span style="text-decoration:underline"><strong>EVERY</strong></span>!!! country around the world, no matter from where they come from ... and
    - at least to me! - they're:

    - Irina Rodnina
    - Jane Torvill & Christopher Dean
    - Ekaterina Gordeeva / Sergei Grinkov (Gordeeva now)
    - Elena Berezhnaya / Anton Sikharulidze
    - Kurt Browning
    - Alexei Yagudin (Oh yes!!!)
    - Katarina Witt
    - Scott Hamilton
    - Oksana Baiul
    - Curry/Cranston/Cousins (any of them is a huge pioneer in male figure skating).

    Of course, Salchow, Henie, Button, The Protopov's are legends forever, but who am I to judge about them now? I've never really "watched" them!


  7. #7

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    I completely agree with Anke in that and I second it. "Legends"for me are the skaters that are universally accepted and have given something to the spot, not necessarily the ones who have good PR and attract on part of our huge little world..
    So let me just put my signature on Anke's list as well

  8. #8
    Show 42

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    Alithia........the "Pair Magic" site is lovely........and welcome to GS Forum............42

  9. #9

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    I do not dispute Anke's definition, although I agree legneds could be local. But Anke's list is something I can not put my signature on. At least not everyone on her list.

    According to Anke <strong>almost every country</strong>

    Irina Rodnina - Never watched her skate
    - Jane Torvill & Christopher Dean - probably almost every country
    - Ekaterina Gordeeva / Sergei Grinkov (Gordeeva now) - probably almost every country
    - Elena Berezhnaya / Anton Sikharulidze - not yet, they are good but not legend status yet, and I don't know about universally getting audience off their feet. Don't want to open a can of you know what, why B&S and not S&P?
    - Kurt Browning - has potential to be one
    - Alexei Yagudin (Oh yes!!!) - no comment, I like him but it is wise not to comment
    - Katarina Witt - 2 X OGM that is a feat, Does Kat receive universal standing O every time she steps on the ice, not sure. I like her but have never been impressed to the point of standing O
    - Scott Hamilton - has potential
    - Oksana Baiul - I like her, but for the last 6 - 7 years, I do not see a lot of audience giving her standing O

    Some more universal rule

    11. My favorite skaters are legends, they are universally loved and adored
    12. My least favorite skaters at best are just local legends, they will never receive earth shattering approval across the oceans.

  10. #10

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    Thanks for posting, Alithia. I think that you are our first registered member from Greece (the home of the Olympics!) I hope that you become a regular.

    The world is a big place. One thing at least is clear from these posts: American audiences have stepped up to the plate to give warm welcomes to the fine skaters of Europe, especially to those from our supposed cold war enemies, those countries in the former Soviet sphere. The fact that Rodina, Gordeeva and Grinkov, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, Yagudin, Baiul and Witt are all as well received in the U.S. as they are in their own countries says it all!


  11. #11

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    At least one skater in Anke's list and I will not say who received quite tepid reception a few years ago at COI for a program that was skated twice at 2 different stops and then yanked by Collins. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to witness that program in one of those cities.

    I think American auidence is no more or less receptive to good programs than audience of other countries. When skaters give us good programs we appreciate, when the programs are yank worthy, we respond with a lot less enthusiasm

  12. #12

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    Alithia - Welcome to Golden Skate. It would appear to you that a legend is someone who is universally accepted as
    such. How do you know for sure that the person is 'universally' accepted? Apparently, from the 'list' no one is a legend prior to the appearance of the Protopopovs and only Hamilton after that. How do we know that Toller Cranston is a legend? or Shuksri Dykstra (sp) or Jacqueline Dubief or Barbara Anne Scott are not legends? How do you know for sure that Dorothy Hamil is not a legend? And even in your time, is Midori Ito a legend?

    I don't believe the award of such a title can be decided by any fan in particular. The fans can certainly have their opinions and I can respect that. In fact I like that, but I would leave the final decision of <em><strong>legendhood</strong></em> to the Sports writers who are required to have a history of the sport as well. In the case of figure skating it is long before the Protopopovs come on the scene. From what I am reading most Europeans are not well versed in the history of skating. I hope I am wrong.


  13. #13
    Custom Title
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    <blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>IMHO real "legends" are capable to bring audiences up on their feet in almost EVERY!!! country around the world, no matter from where they come from ... [/quote]


  14. #14

    Re: "LEGENDS!!!"

    Kurt Browning
    Torville and Dean
    Gordeeva and Grinkov
    Michelle Kwan

    In the U.S. :
    Michelle, again.
    Dorothy Hamill
    Peggy Fleming
    Dick Button

    In Russia:

    SOOOOO many.....
    The Protopopovs
    And in the will be interesting to see
    if it is Plushenko....Yagudin....both...or neither....
    that go down in history as the greatest russian male
    skater of all time. At this point, Yags certainly has
    the titles - but back home, Plush has the popularity.

  15. #15


    Thanks, EmiC, thank you!, for letting me know: So far I didn't realize Torvill/Dean (the Duchesnays!), Gordeeva/Grinkov (I've always prefered Mishkotionok/Dmitriev!), Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze (Shen & Zhao are!) and Scott Hamilton (... in 1984 I rooted for Norbert Schramm, does somebody even remember him?) were my favourite skaters. |I

    And as for the "certain" COI skater some years ago, why not quote another legend? "The times they're a changin" .... :smokin:

    Oh, I should've known everybody'll nail me now on that "capable of standing o's around the world ..." remark, I'm aware it was a misunderstanding one. I guess the right expression should've been "universally liked" like it has been used several times on this thread. Again - English is not my first language!

    But why the entire discussion? We all know there's only ONE conclusion, OK, why not finally point it out:

    Rule No. 13:


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