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Thread: Which skaters “changed the course of figure skating?”

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Which skaters “changed the course of figure skating?”

    This thread was inspired by the ongoing discussion of Yu-na Kim’s influence and legacy. Together with Mao Asada, these are two of the finest athletes in the world. Going back a little ways, Katarina Witt won four world championships and two Olympic gold medals. Michelle Kwan gave us bucketsful of oohs and aahs.

    But did any of these “change the sport” as much as Frank Zamboni? Or as much as the guy who built the first mechanically cooled indoor ice rink? (That would be John Gamgee, 1876 – very likely a descendant of Frodo’s faithful gardener, Sam Gamgee. )

    Here is my short list.

    1. Jackson Haines. Invented free skating – performing a choreographed program to music, punctuated by fancy spins and tricks. (He also invented a way of attaching the blade permanently to the boot, instead of strapping it on.)

    Haines changed the sport from being a succession of stiff formal figures, turns and postures, to being flowing performance art.

    2. Madge Syers. Entered the 1902 men’s world figure skating championship and won silver, forcing the ISU to establish women’s championships, starting in 1906. She won the first two ladies’ world championships and the first ladies’ Olympic gold medal (1908).

    Syers changed the sport from being exclusively a man’s sport to being primarily a woman’s sport.

    3. Sonia Henie. Besides her ten world championships and three Olympic gold medals, Henie glamorized the sport and took it to Hollywood.

    She changed the sport from being a semi-popular participatory winter recreation to being big time show business.

    4. Dick Button. Button invented the jump technique of “spinning in the air.” This technique made possible all subsequent triple and quadruple jumps, which came on the scene in rapid succession after the 1950s.

    Button changed the sport from being a gliding/spinning contest to being the jumping contest that we know today.

    5. Sonia Bianchetti. This high-ranking ISU official spearheaded (for better or for worse) the movement to do away with figures altogether. The last nail in the coffin came in 1990.

    Bianchetti changed figure skating from being figure skating into being not figure skating. What could be a bigger change than that?

    Comments? Who are your candidates?

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    Banned janetfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    This thread was inspired by the ongoing discussion of Yu-na Kim’s influence and legacy. Together with Mao Asada, these are two of the finest athletes in the world. Going back a little ways, Katarina Witt won four world championships and two Olympic gold medals. Michelle Kwan gave us bucketsful of oohs and aahs.

    But did any of these “change the sport” as much as Frank Zamboni? Or as much as the guy who built the first mechanically cooled indoor ice rink? (That would be John Gamgee, 1876 – very likely a descendant of Frodo’s faithful gardener, Sam Gamgee. )

    Here is my short list.

    1. Jackson Haines. Invented free skating – performing a choreographed program to music, punctuated by fancy spins and tricks. (He also invented a way of attaching the blade permanently to the boot, instead of strapping it on.)

    Haines changed the sport from being a succession of stiff formal figures, turns and postures, to being flowing performance art.

    2. Madge Syers. Entered the 1902 men’s world figure skating championship and won silver, forcing the ISU to establish women’s championships, starting in 1906. She won the first two ladies’ world championships and the first ladies’ Olympic gold medal (1908).

    Syers changed the sport from being exclusively a man’s sport to being primarily a woman’s sport.

    3. Sonia Henie. Besides her ten world championships and three Olympic gold medals, Henie glamorized the sport and took it to Hollywood.

    She changed the sport from being a semi-popular participatory winter recreation to being big time show business.

    4. Dick Button. Button invented the jump technique of “spinning in the air.” This technique made possible all subsequent triple and quadruple jumps, which came on the scene in rapid succession after the 1950s.

    Button changed the sport from being a gliding/spinning contest to being the jumping contest that we know today.

    5. Sonia Bianchetti. This high-ranking ISU official spearheaded (for better or for worse) the movement to do away with figures altogether. The last nail in the coffin came in 1990.

    Bianchetti changed figure skating from being figure skating into being not figure skating. What could be a bigger change than that?

    Comments? Who are your candidates?
    Nice list - but 20 years before Bianchetti helped eliminate figures there was Trixie and Janet. One was too good at figures for the good of the sport - and unlike the credit you give totally to Haines - it was Janet who is credited in the modern era with turning the free skate into performance art.

    And speaking of innovators - Midori was the first lady who truly showed us that ladies could jump and spin in the air just like the guys.

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    Custom Title skatemom1122's Avatar
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    Nice list! However, I must add one.

    6. Marie-Reine Le Gougne - French judge caught in pairs figure skating scandal in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games. This incident prompted the doing away of the traditional '6.0' judging system and the implementation of the International Judging System, or IJS, a complicated system of points, in an attempt to deter conspiracy. The new judging system would forever change the face of figure skating, for the better, in my opinion.

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    I agree with all of Mathman's suggestions. I'd also propose John Curry, who added significant artistry to men's skating. The Soviets made pairs skating both more athletic and more artistic. I'd cite their whole program, but if we have to limit the list to a single pair, it would have to be the Protopopovs.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by janetfan View Post
    Nice list - but 20 years before Bianchetti helped eliminate figures there was Trixie and Janet.
    Back in the early 70s Sonia Bianchetti was the ISU official who took took the Janet-Trixie thing by the horns and actually did dsomething about it.

    Bianchetti was elected to the ISU Figure Skating Committee (the first woman elected to high position in the ISU) in 1967 and served until the ISU reorganized in 1988, rising to the powerful position of chairman. (Afterward, she served on the ISU Council from 1988-1992, and was poised to become President of the ISU, but lost out on a coup the the speed skating side led by Ottavio Cinquanta.)

    In the early 1970s when Janet Lynn s was competing, it was Sonia Bianchetti who conceived of the short program, wrote the rules for scoring it (assisted by Tamara Moskvina), and then campaigned tirelessly for the rules changes that came into being for the 1973 world championship in which Janet Lynn competed the ladies short program for the first time.

    ...and unlike the credit you give totally to Haines - it was Janet who is credited in the modern era with turning the free skate into performance art.
    I don;t think so. There were plenty of artistic skaters -- Sonia Henie, Celia Colledge, Barbara-Ann Scott, Jacquelune Du Bief, Peggy Fleming, not to mention pairs teams like Wagner and Paul and Belousova and Protopopoff -- long before the "modern era." Janet was the best, but I would say a long way from the first.

    Jackson Haines really did come up with something that no one had ever imagined before. He was a ballet master who was forced to "take his show on the road" when he could not stir up any interest in "fancy skating" in New York. He settled in Austria and soon the "Austrian-style, or "continental style" of skating completely took over from the then dominant "British style."

    Eventually the British style skating pretty much dropped out of the competition altogether. The British attitude was, how can this new style of skating possibly have any merit if we didn't invent it?

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    Dreaming and dancing Bennett's Avatar
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    midori ito.

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    Mashimaro on Ice
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bennett View Post
    midori ito.
    Agree. I think Midori is the one who really pushed the technical content for ladies. She pushed her contemporaries (Yamaguchi, Harding) to up their technical content as well. We see her influence in every female skater who are doing difficult 3-3 combos and 3A's. In the artistic department, I think Janet Lynn definitely set the standard for many of the skaters in later generations. Her influence is seen in Michelle Kwan, who in turn influenced many of the skaters we see today.

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    Probably not to the extent of the above pioneers, but maybe Nicole Bobek? AFAIK Nicole was the first to do the full-split spiral position with pointed toes that was later popularized by Sasha Cohen (Sarah Hughes had a nice one too). It seems to me that the quality standards for spirals were never the same after that.

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    I don't really know the historical ones, but in my opinion, Torvill & Dean in ice dance and the men who introduced the triple axel and quad in mens (Orser, Browning, Stojko..). There were also some men that caused artistry to have a 'comeback' recently: Lambiel, Buttle, and Takahashi.. Chan a bit too I guess. Also, Virtue & Moir and Davis & White have turned ice dancing back into dancing, as opposed to operatic dramatics of the Europeans with Bourne & Kraatz thrown in.

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    Toller Cranston.

    Truly skated from the soul, with his whole body. Ended the mannered, formulaic era, especially in mens' skating. Opened up new possibilities for emotional expression on the ice.

    You know, I really miss Toller's spins. They expressed emotions - joy and heartbreak. When has a recent spin done that? (Actually, I thought V/M were headed in that direction with their Pink Floyd spin - it really expressed intimacy, especially early in the season, but they never got that program refined, due to her injury.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by callalily View Post
    Toller Cranston.

    Truly skated from the soul, with his whole body. Ended the mannered, formulaic era, especially in mens' skating. Opened up new possibilities for emotional expression on the ice.

    You know, I really miss Toller's spins. They expressed emotions - joy and heartbreak. When has a recent spin done that? (Actually, I thought V/M were headed in that direction with their Pink Floyd spin - it really expressed intimacy, especially early in the season, but they never got that program refined, due to her injury.)
    One of the greatest and most original skaters I ever saw. A true artist on the ice rarely equaled when it came to creativity.

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    Beliver in Sasha's Perfect Program Tinymavy15's Avatar
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    Dick Button for the triple jump certainly, maybe Plushenko for making the quad a "must-have" there for a while.
    Midori Ito certainly raised the bar for women's skating so she has to be up there.
    I agree that Nicole and her spirals were more influentail than most people give her credit for. Michelle would not have had her iconic spiral if she was not trying to beat Nicole at nationals when they were young.

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    Alexei Yagudin, whose flashy SLSS at the end of his "Winter" SP spawned a thousand imitators.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    This thread was inspired by the ongoing discussion of Yu-na Kim’s influence and legacy. Together with Mao Asada, these are two of the finest athletes in the world. Going back a little ways, Katarina Witt won four world championships and two Olympic gold medals. Michelle Kwan gave us bucketsful of oohs and aahs.

    But did any of these “change the sport” as much as Frank Zamboni? Or as much as the guy who built the first mechanically cooled indoor ice rink? (That would be John Gamgee, 1876 – very likely a descendant of Frodo’s faithful gardener, Sam Gamgee. )

    Here is my short list.

    1. Jackson Haines. Invented free skating – performing a choreographed program to music, punctuated by fancy spins and tricks. (He also invented a way of attaching the blade permanently to the boot, instead of strapping it on.)

    Haines changed the sport from being a succession of stiff formal figures, turns and postures, to being flowing performance art.

    2. Madge Syers. Entered the 1902 men’s world figure skating championship and won silver, forcing the ISU to establish women’s championships, starting in 1906. She won the first two ladies’ world championships and the first ladies’ Olympic gold medal (1908).

    Syers changed the sport from being exclusively a man’s sport to being primarily a woman’s sport.

    3. Sonia Henie. Besides her ten world championships and three Olympic gold medals, Henie glamorized the sport and took it to Hollywood.

    She changed the sport from being a semi-popular participatory winter recreation to being big time show business.

    4. Dick Button. Button invented the jump technique of “spinning in the air.” This technique made possible all subsequent triple and quadruple jumps, which came on the scene in rapid succession after the 1950s.

    Button changed the sport from being a gliding/spinning contest to being the jumping contest that we know today.

    5. Sonia Bianchetti. This high-ranking ISU official spearheaded (for better or for worse) the movement to do away with figures altogether. The last nail in the coffin came in 1990.

    Bianchetti changed figure skating from being figure skating into being not figure skating. What could be a bigger change than that?

    Comments? Who are your candidates?
    Wow this is amazing information. Thank you. I didn't know that.

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    Well lots of skaters have changed and revolutionize the sport but here are some from "unique" reasons...

    Mao Asada aside from the triple axels, she might be most known for the WEED (wrong edge entry deduction). Now we see the symbols ! and E on the judges score sheet.

    Denise Biellman. Almost all female skaters are performing it even if most don't have the flexibility to grab their blade with both hands.

    Lucinda Ruh. Now everyone is doing the "pancake" sit position to receive higher levels.

    Igor Shiplband for navigating the step sequences for his skaters to consistently receive level 4's.

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