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Thread: Most influential skater?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Most influential skater?

    Who would you single out as a person who has had an immense influence on the sport of figure skating over the years?

    I think Dick Button is a strong candidate. He invented the modern technique of jumping as "spinning in the air." For better or worse, this made jumps the dominant feature of competitive free skating, which it still is today. Then he went on to become the voice of figure skating in the U.S. for 40 years.

    A recent candidate of a different type would be Elaine Zayak. Purely by accident, she gave her name to a set if rules that dominates the ISU Judging System. A thousand years from now, no one will remember who "Zayak" was, but they will still be debating and refining the "Zayak rules" (while driving their "Zamboni's" ).

    In the same vein there is the famous "Witt rule" -- the rule that says, hey, girl, you better add some feathers to that costume and cover your behind.

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    Beliver in Sasha's Perfect Program Tinymavy15's Avatar
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    Well we can't argue that since Nicole Bobeck spirals have gotten higher and higher... Frank Caroll has said that Michelle Kwan used to have a spiral that was barley above her hip until she was up aginst Nicole at Nationals and was determined to get a spiral just as impressive. many would say she succeded. Kurt Browning was the first to do a quad... now a mandatory element for all those men who want to be world champion.

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    I'd simply the problem at least a little - say the most influential in each discipline.

    Pairs - Protopopovs
    Dance - Torville & Dean
    Ladies - if you really want to go back, then certainly Sonia Henie.
    Men - not sure; the discipline has really been around for a long time; for example, how do you compare the influence of Dick Button with that of Ulrich Salchow?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Sonia Henie without a doubt. She brought figure skating to Hollywood! (This had even more influence on the sport than her competitive success -- and coincidentally made her rich instead of just bemedaled.)

    For men, there is also Jackson Haines, who is credited more than any other with turning the sport into a performing art.

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    Without a doubt, Michelle Kwan. She is the Sonia Henie of today's era.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    I guess it depends on what we mean by "influence." Michelle was the dominant skater of her era and won more skating contests than you can shake a stick at.

    But 50 years from now, will we say that the sport of figure skating is different because of the influence of Michelle Kwan? or Alexei Yagudin? or Katarina Witt?

    Scott Hamilton, for instance, by his entreprenurial efforts with Stars on Ice, exercised an influence far beyond winning an Olympic medal.

    Of course, Michelle is just starting out. Maybe she will be the most influential skater of all time by becoming Secretary of State and decreeing a billion dollar grant from the U.S. Treasury to build skating rinks in all schools by 2050.

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    Custom Title Geesesk8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by passion View Post
    Without a doubt, Michelle Kwan. She is the Sonia Henie of today's era.
    DITTO !

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    Beliver in Sasha's Perfect Program Tinymavy15's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    I guess it depends on what we mean by "influence." Michelle was the dominant skater of her era and won more skating contests than you can shake a stick at.

    But 50 years from now, will we say that the sport of figure skating is different because of the influence of Michelle Kwan? or Alexei Yagudin? or Katarina Witt?
    right. How exactly has Michelle changed the sport for better or for worse? Yes, the sport is diffrent than when Michelle came onto the scene, but I don't think she was the one who issued the change. in fact you could argue that the change brought her demise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinymavy15 View Post
    right. How exactly has Michelle changed the sport for better or for worse?
    I believe the topic is "influence" not change??? But since you talk about change, I think many skaters change the sports including MK. Kristi and maybe along with Ito were the first to put in a second triple lutz at min 3.55. MK consistently do that and give that 7 triple performane. That is some nice change. Anyway, since Mk, have you seen any US lady skater who can consistently deliver that? Mk recaptured the world title 3 times, and defended it once. Since MK have you seen any US lady skater who has enough stuff in her to even defend a national title, or at least try to defend a national title?
    sport is diffrent than when Michelle came onto the scene, but I don't think she was the one who issued the change. in fact you could argue that the change brought her demise.
    I would not use the word "demise" to characterize any phase of MK's competitive career. Just curious, why do you think MK had a "demise"?

    Back to influence. You can in one way measure "influence" by how many younger generation skaters claim to have been inspired by MK, or look at her as a role model etc. IIRC, in year 1999, and 2000, when I looked up the jr skaters and the skaters who attended first US senior national, in their bio almost 100% stated MK is their role model, that included Johnny Weir, and Cohen. Here we are at 2007, both Zhang and Nagasu said MK is their role model. I think that is "influence". At one point in 1998 Kulik listed MK as his favorite female skater. Kostner admires MK, even Fumie states in her official website that she admires MK. Also the more successful these younger generation skaters are the greater is the influence. (That is how some experts claim Wagner as the most influential composer) No one knows who will be the nest great American lady skater, Kimmie or Caroline or Mirari or Rachel? Guess who is their role model?

    Back to "demise", I don't believe the skating system or rules can lead to a skater's demise. Skaters who go into the path of "demise" usually form their own, e.g. trading practice time for Hollywood parties etc.

    Back to influence again. If you have a chance to visit Colorado Springs, you should stop by the US figure skating hall of fame. There is a bronze statue named "Ascension", it tells of a story of US history from Owens to guess who MK.

    edited to add: Here is how they claim Wagner to be the #1 influential http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/music/index2.htm
    Last edited by rtureck; 07-29-2007 at 04:17 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rtureck View Post
    I believe the topic is "influence" not change??? But since you talk about change, I think many skaters change the sports including MK. Kristi and maybe along with Ito were the first to put in a second triple lutz at min 3.55. MK consistently do that and give that 7 triple performane. That is some nice change. Anyway, since Mk, have you seen any US lady skater who can consistently deliver that? Mk recaptured the world title 3 times, and defended it once. Since MK have you seen any US lady skater who has enough stuff in her to even defend a national title, or at least try to defend a national title?


    I would not use the word "demise" to characterize any phase of MK's competitive career. Just curious, why do you think MK had a "demise"?

    Back to influence. You can in one way measure "influence" by how many younger generation skaters claim to have been inspired by MK, or look at her as a role model etc. IIRC, in year 1999, and 2000, when I looked up the jr skaters and the skaters who attended first US senior national, in their bio almost 100% stated MK is their role model, that included Johnny Weir, and Cohen. Here we are at 2007, both Zhang and Nagasu said MK is their role model. I think that is "influence". At one point in 1998 Kulik listed MK as his favorite female skater. Kostner admires MK, even Fumie stated in her official website that she admire MK. Also the more successful these younger generation skaters are the greater is the influence. (That is how someone claim Wagner is the most influential composer)

    Back to "demise", I don't believe the skating system or rules can lead to a skater's demise. Skaters who go into the path of "demise" usually form their own, e.g. trading practice time for Hollywood parties etc.
    I believe that one thing that Michelle might have influenced in skating is the shift from the importance of Olympics to Worlds.

    In the early 90s, I personally thought that the best accomplishment a skater could ever achieve was to win Olympic Gold. However, after Michelle didn't win the Olympic Gold twice, but won 5 worlds, my criteria changed. I started thinking that a skater becomes best by consistently staying at or near the top year after year.

    That's why I'd probably rank Shizuka Arakawa lower as Michelle Kwan in terms of who accomplished more as a skater. Shizuka hasn't managed to medal two years in a row, where as Michelle managed to medal at Worlds from 1995-2005. Ironically, even Fumie could be said to equal the accomplishments of Arakawa. Suguri who never won Worlds, stayed in the top 5 year after year and won the Grand Prix final. Fumie never reached Shizuka's heights but on average she has managed to come closer to the top more so than the 2006 Olympic Gold Medalist. Of course, it's probably obvious that I think Sasha to be equally deserving of credit because all those silvers that she got vouch for the fact that she was consistently one of the best.

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    IMO, the world for skaters (esp. American ladies skaters) is safer since Michelle came on the scene. After all, once upon a time, a skater had a ten to fifteen million dollar incentive to win the OGM by any means necessary (this number was taken from a court opinion regarding Tonya Harding's injunction); Michelle has replaced that with an equally large financial incentive to take defeat with good grace. Not only does this reduce the motive to "whack" competitors, this also also reduces the stress level (yes, I know the OGM is what all skaters dream about, but I think there is likely to be a difference between "my dream didn't come true, but that is it" as opposed to "my dream didn't come true, and that means all the sacrifices have been in vain".) So, I think that Michelle has been extremely influential.

    I don't give her the "most influential skater award", though -- I think that belongs to Madge Sayers -- whose influence resulted in the creation of a "ladies event", simply because the world was shocked and upset when she got a silver competing against the men.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    C'mon, I know you all hate to admit it but the one skater who got everyone talking about Figure Skating, Olympics and World Championships plus Money Making Movies, Using Ice Indoors, Travelling Extravaganzas, and yes, lots of gossip was the mother of us all:

    [CENTER]SONIA HENIE[/CENTER]

    Figure skating hardly existed before then.

    On top of Sonia came Barbara Ann Scott who drew attention to the School Figures with displays of her skills in magazines.

    Then word got out that there was a male skater from Englewood, N.J. (lucky there was ice around in those days) who won 2 European Championships and an Olympic Gold Medal with dazzing spins and jumps. You know him as:

    [CENTER]Dick Button[/CENTER]

    However, if the only credit you can give to this thread is a recent skater then it has to to Kurt Browning.

    Joe

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    Trixie Schuba's biggest fan! blue dog's Avatar
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    Sonja Henie has to be on the list, definitely. Look at all the moves the women came up with in an attempt to dethrone her (we now have the layback and the camel--contributions of Cecilia Coolidge, in an attempt to beat Sonja).

    I would go out on a limb and say Peggy Fleming, Karen Magnussen, and Janet Lynn influenced the style we see today. While the style before those women was beautiful, their style was freer, gentler, but still with the athleticism behind it.

    Of course, we cannot say that the dominant skaters like Witt, Kwan, Grischuk/Platov, Torvill/Dean, and Gordeyeva/Grinkov didn't influence the sport. It is largely because of those people that we see the moves we see today, and the direction skating has taken. Only one other pair was doing side by side triples in the 80's--it is now a requirement to be in the top 12 pairs at worlds. Several moves invented by G/P and T/D were once illegal--now, are being attempted by dance teams in an attempt to create something memorable.

    Of course, Witt and Kwan brought about the triple jump revolution in ladies. While many had been landing triples prior to Witt, people started trying harder and harder triples to try to beat her (Manley lutzed, and Thomas looped). Triple-triples became standard in the last ten years, when, guess what--women wanted to beat Michelle.

    But of course, the most influential skater today...is none other than Speedy himself--who has changed the sport for better or for worse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blue dog View Post
    Of course, Witt and Kwan brought about the triple jump revolution in ladies. While many had been landing triples prior to Witt, people started trying harder and harder triples to try to beat her (Manley lutzed, and Thomas looped).
    Huh? Witt was, in fact, one of the first to do three different triples in a program -- she was attempting triple flips along with toe loop and salchow in the early 1980s, well before she was challenging for medals much less the one to beat, but there were other women who had done that before her or at the same time, notably Denise Biellmann (lutz) and Elaine Zayak (loop). Or, for that matter, Midori Ito in juniors. Ladies were trying harder triples because they could, and because doing so would help them to place better in general, not specifically because they were trying to beat Witt . . . obviously Witt herself was not trying to beat Witt when she was part of the same trend.

    Triple-triples became standard in the last ten years, when, guess what--women wanted to beat Michelle.
    And I would say that the same logic applies to whatever various ladies were doing to try to be the best in the mid-90s to early 2000s, when Kwan was often winning. Triple-triples were one way of getting attention and racking up technical content -- Kwan did them, so did quite a few others before she came along and while she was first making her mark, and most of those who did would have tried them even if she had never existed (and the best of them would have won more often, or at all, had that been the case).

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    I know you are listing so many skaters from the 80s and upwards. The topic seemed to ask for one skater from anytime.

    however, I like your list and I would add

    [CENTER]JOHN CURRY
    [/CENTER].

    Even Tarrossova names him as the best ever.

    Joe

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