I would hazard a guess that Katarina Witt is probably the GOAT of ice skating (greatest of all time)... I know Sonja Henie is recognized and the internet has given Janet Lynn recognition she lacked before but in terms of whose the MOST recognized? I'd be shocked if it wasn't Witt
Originally Posted by Mathman
I don't know if this is significant, but Michelle Kwan is the only one whose birthday I know. And I think it's today! Happy birthday, Michelle.
Landing 3As in my dreams!
If we're talking in terms of "household recognition" by people who rarely pay attention to figure skating, I'd tend to agree that it's Katarina. At the height of her career, she was probably the best known/most recognized skater in the world and may still be, to some extent. Just about everyone knew who she was. Although Brian Boitano was certainly very well known at the same time, I'm not sure that even he ever achieved the degree of fame that Katarina did. Except possibly Tonya Harding, whose fame is probably better described as notoriety.
Originally Posted by Kwanford Wife
There have been other skaters who have been far more accomplished but for sheer recognition, IMO Katarina wins.
I think it varies for people of different eras. I was born in the early 90s and I never watched a single skating competition until last year, but growing up I knew exactly who Michelle Kwan was. Same for many college students today who aren't into figure skating. If you asked them to name one skater or show them a picture of her, they would know Michelle Kwan. A lot of it has to do with her pop culture presence (TV shows, commercials, etc.) even outside the US.
Originally Posted by skatedreamer
Of course, it's my opinion and other people have theirs. I don't think we can ever have a definitive answer to this question.
still fangirling for Toller...
It definitely depends on the era. And it does not need to have anything to do with skating. For my era, the most famous in the US would be Dorothy Hamill. Just last week I was talking with some people my age (and Dorothy's age) about another's wedge haircut, and both exclaimed "Like Dorothy Hamill." And they know nothing about, and do not follow, skating. They would not know Michelle Kwan if you paid them cash money.
Originally Posted by gravy
Worldwide, I would tend to agree with Katerina Witt.
Perhaps Kwan and Witt had/have world recognition, but if you went outside your home and asked anyone what they think of Henie and Lynn I suspect they wouldn't know who you were talking about, unless they were fans of this dying sport and knowledgeable fans at that.
Originally Posted by LiamForeman
Definitely depends on generation. For me, growing up, it was all about Michelle Kwan. On the men's side, vaguely aware of Yagudin vs. Plushenko (and after a while, just Plushenko on his own).
A skater who should be world famous but isn't -- Carol Heiss. She was a five-time world champion (like Michelle Kwan) and Olympic gold and silver medalist (like Yuna Kim). First woman to do a double Axel. She could do a variety of spins and jumps in both directions.
Heiss had the bad luck to come along in between the skating movie era of Sonja Henie and the television era beginning with Peggy Fleming.
Actually, she did play the lead in a movie -- the not-quite-as-bad-as-it-sounds "Snow White and the Three Stooges.
I'd have to agree that Dorothy Hamill would be one of the best known skaters in the U.S., even today. Her bubbly personality, and of course that distinctive haircut, have made her very telegenic, so she's had more opportunities than many other skating champions. (Another asset is her very pleasing voice. She doesn't have that "little girl on helium" squeal that a lot of skaters and gymnasts have.) She was also the only ladies' gold medalist until Kristi in 1992, so for every Olympics between 1976 and 1992, she was invoked as the one to aspire to. I'd say that she, Michelle, and maybe Peggy Fleming would be the big names. Janet Lynn is revered among skating fans but these days probably isn't well remembered by anyone else. Partly this is due to her wish to live a very private life with her family, whereas Peggy has been visible pretty regularly as a TV sports announcer for the past decades. For whatever reason, Kristi didn't make an immediate splash, though thank goodness she's proved to have staying power. She may be better known today than she was right after her win at Albertville.
Jay Leno thought Michelle was Nancy Kwan (an actress).
Landing 3As in my dreams!
Had to laugh re: "little girl on helium!" Hamill really does have a lovely speaking voice; so does Fleming. Hamill has been on TV recently in ads/infomercials for a new exercise machine. The skating fan in me remembers seeing her but can't remember much about the machine!
For years during Michelle's early career, I dealt with friends who used to refer to Michelle as "Nancy Kwan." It was probably the combination of Nancy Kerrigan's still being so well-known, along with Nancy Kwan's being just about the only person named Kwan who was at all famous in this country (at the time). It's kind of like the huge number of people who still refer to Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek as "Dr. Spock," because of the mental mashup of author Dr. Benjamin Spock and the medical character on Star Trek, Dr. McCoy.
Originally Posted by Icey
Tough to narrow it down to just three! But for preference, in each discipline ...
Ladies: Midori Ito (JPN), Michelle Kwan (USA), Yuna Kim (KOR)
Men: Alexander Yagudin (RUS), Daisuke Takahashi (JPN), Brian Boitano (USA)
Pairs: Gordeeva & Grinkov (USR / RUS), Shen & Zhao (CHN), Savchenko & Szolkowy (GER)
Dance: Virtue & Moir (CAN), Davis & White (USA), Torvill & Dean (GBR)
I've chosen skaters who I think became famous also outside figure skating world.
Torvill and Dean
Gordeeva and Grinkov