Best Figure Skaters That Never Won Olympic Gold

Baron Vladimir

Record Breaker
Joined
Dec 18, 2014
I would say that Tonia Harding is the most famous USA figure skater currently in the world. That quite praised movie about her 'skating life' certainly helped in that regard. I can bet that around Europe Katarina Witt, Pluschenko, and Torvill/Dean are still the most famous skaters in their disciplines. The fact is that all those skaters were part of the sport during 3 or 4 olympic cycles. Torvil/Dean Bolero performance was the most recognizable olympic performance of all athletes performances in Sarajevo 1984, and that 'fame' i'm afraid we will never see again from figure skating at Olympics.
 

Skatesocs

Final Flight
Joined
May 16, 2020
But I thought we're referring to popularity among skating fans and not the general public. I mean skating is more or less a niche sport in most countries. The general public and media in the US haven't talked much about skating for the past 15 years.

Eh, noskates did say Zagitova wouldn't be remembered unless you're a skating fan or Russian. I don't think it really overall matters which skater is or isn't remembered for their skating in a general population, or even remembered at all. It's just skating, not rocket science. Or soccer (or NBA as well for China, I believe), lol.
 

Ballade88

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
Well, I was just saying that Michelle Kwan is still very much remembered in the U.S. by skating fans and even by some in the general public. Skating was quite big in the U.S. in the 90s and Michelle was one of the skaters who really broke through to the general public. She was on magazine covers, awards shows, Disney specials, and even made an appearance on the Simpsons. If her popularity has lessened, it is partly due to the overall decrease in attention for skating in the country. The same could happen in Japan as well. Once a country stops producing champions and stars, then it is more likely that even the most famous ones fade a little from the public consciousness.
 

Alex D

Record Breaker
Joined
Sep 23, 2013
Best is probably always in the eye of the beholder,

but I would for sure name Tonya Harding first. Her athletism was second to none, she did land a triple Axel in the short at Skate America in 87 for the first time of womens figure skating, later she did land two triple Axels as the first women also in the free and then she also combined the triple Axel with a double Toe, which nobody did before either. After 91, she lost it somehow the Axel was gone and her overall career was tough and overshadowed by what was done to Nancy, but together with Michelle Kwan she kind of was a tragic Olympian and yet, ahead of everyone in so many ways.

Sasha Cohen and Laura Lepistö are two of my personal favorites and best in regards of what they brought to the ice. Their programs were like little movies to me, I still watch them from time to time. Last but not least, Mao Asada with the footwork and unique Biellmans, who did actually land three triple Axels in one competition, which was a first!
 

Ballade88

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
I don't know about that honestly, when it comes to Hanyu or Kim. But of course, we will see.

Well, you kinda need at least 20 years in the future to really tell about the popularity. But no one remains that popular forever, not even celebrities in the entertainment business. Ito was big but she was gradually replaced by Mao and then Hanyu in terms of popularity in her country. Katarina Witt was a well-known international star but nowadays her name rings a bell for skating fans and those that lived through the 80s. Same goes for Torvill & Dean, whose level of international fame no other skating star has achieved thus far.
 

Skatesocs

Final Flight
Joined
May 16, 2020
Well, you kinda need at least 20 years in the future to really tell about the popularity. But no one remains that popular forever, not even celebrities in the entertainment business. Ito was big but she was gradually replaced by Mao and then Hanyu in terms of popularity in her country. Katarina Witt was a well-known international star but nowadays her name rings a bell for skating fans and those that lived through the 80s. Same goes for Torvill & Dean, whose level of international fame no other skating star has achieved thus far.

?? You were saying Kwan's popularity can somewhat be attributed to figure skating declining as a sport in the US. I agree there. I do not agree that figure skating declining as a sport would link to a direct decline in Hanyu's or Kim's popularity - of course they may fade anyway with time, and skating dying out entirely might have some effect too. More likely, I think them withdrawing from the public eye would have such an effect. South Korea doesn't follow figure skating all that fervently even now, and still Kim is very popular. I can't predict it of course, which is why I said "we will see".
 

plushyfan

Record Breaker
Joined
Jun 27, 2012
Country
Hungary
Same goes for Torvill & Dean, whose level of international fame no other skating star has achieved thus far.

Why do you think so? Where come you from? You can be sure in Plushenko. I'm following him what he is doing, what has happened with him since 2010. I experienced how popular and famous he is in Eu and Japan and how famous he is in the world. And if you check his number of shows over the years no one comes close to him. Many people know him who is not interested in figure skating and he has fans among those people who are not a regular spectator of figure skating competitions..
 

Skater Boy

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 24, 2012
I'll echo others in saying:

Patrick Chan
Kurt Browning
Brian Orser
(Oh, that Canadian mens Olympic curse)

Also:
Michelle Kwan
Sasha Cohen
Mao Asada
Kaetlyn Osmond
Carolina Kostner

Underhill and Martini

great list. I know he only won bronze but I would add Jeff Buttle to that list. He was another amazing skater.

I was watching some old clips I might add Maria Butyrskaya.
 

Skater Boy

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 24, 2012
Well, I was just saying that Michelle Kwan is still very much remembered in the U.S. by skating fans and even by some in the general public. Skating was quite big in the U.S. in the 90s and Michelle was one of the skaters who really broke through to the general public. She was on magazine covers, awards shows, Disney specials, and even made an appearance on the Simpsons. If her popularity has lessened, it is partly due to the overall decrease in attention for skating in the country. The same could happen in Japan as well. Once a country stops producing champions and stars, then it is more likely that even the most famous ones fade a little from the public consciousness.
Michelle is truly recognizeable. She may not have not OGM but her longevity and consistency puts her ahead of skaters like Arakawa, Lipinski and Hughes who have OGM but not all that memorable other than to their fans. A lot of skaters will have a huge nationalistic following or withintheskating community but Kwan transcends that and is known by no skating fans.
 

Skater Boy

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 24, 2012
I'll echo others in saying:

Patrick Chan
Kurt Browning
Brian Orser
(Oh, that Canadian mens Olympic curse)

Also:
Michelle Kwan
Sasha Cohen
Mao Asada
Kaetlyn Osmond
Carolina Kostner

Underhill and Martini

I would also add Emanual Sandu to that Canadian Curse. He was so talented. It is sad that Joanne McLeod and Emanual could not get it together because he truly was artistically and technically amazing!
 

gkelly

Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 26, 2003
I asked my (college-aged, US) niece and nephew if they could name any elite figure skaters. They don't follow skating themselves but they do have an aunt who is obsessed.

Niece was able to name Sasha Cohen (because she has a signed picture my dad/her granddad got when niece was quite young) and was proud to have remembered the name correctly, plus "Gracie something."

Nephew had nothing to add except "Monkey Man" -- I have no idea if he was making that up on the spot or was remembering someone or something he had seen as a child.
 

AshWagsFan

Edges for days.
Final Flight
Joined
Oct 14, 2017
Country
United-States
I’d also like to add Linda Fratianne, Surya Bonaly, Liz Manley, and Rosalyn Sumners
 

Ballade88

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
Why do you think so? Where come you from? You can be sure in Plushenko. I'm following him what he is doing, what has happened with him since 2010. I experienced how popular and famous he is in Eu and Japan and how famous he is in the world. And if you check his number of shows over the years no one comes close to him. Many people know him who is not interested in figure skating and he has fans among those people who are not a regular spectator of figure skating competitions..

Is Plushenko that famous outside of Russia? I'm not sure... Certainly his fame doesn't seem to reach the levels of Torvill & Dean, Grinkov & Gordeeva, or Katarina Witt in the west.

?? You were saying Kwan's popularity can somewhat be attributed to figure skating declining as a sport in the US. I agree there. I do not agree that figure skating declining as a sport would link to a direct decline in Hanyu's or Kim's popularity - of course they may fade anyway with time, and skating dying out entirely might have some effect too. More likely, I think them withdrawing from the public eye would have such an effect. South Korea doesn't follow figure skating all that fervently even now, and still Kim is very popular. I can't predict it of course, which is why I said "we will see".

Well I am saying you can't tell unless an amount of time like a decade or so has passed since their retirement. A decade hasn't passed since Kim retired and Hanyu hasn't retired. Mao is still very popular in Japan despite not being an OGM. As you said, many factors contribute to the decline in popularity. The rise of another national icon (in Ito's case) or general decline in the sport's popularity. Usually when the latter happens, the name remains known (it rings a bell for people) but perhaps only for people of a certain generation. For example, Dorothy Hamill and Nadia Comenaci are names that people of a certain age will remember well but not so much for young people today.
 

ruga

Final Flight
Joined
Oct 20, 2017
I doubt than any skater, no matter how long they compete, can achieve worldwide fame just for athletic performance. Most athletes can't actually - famous athletes compete mostly in football, basketball, tennis or martial arts. There are exceptions obviously, but figure skating hasn't reached mainstream popularity yet, maybe because its rules are overall not easy to understand and the sport is not always taken seriously. Longevity adds up too of course, especially for a growing sport that is figure skating.
 

Ballade88

On the Ice
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
I asked my (college-aged, US) niece and nephew if they could name any elite figure skaters. They don't follow skating themselves but they do have an aunt who is obsessed.

Niece was able to name Sasha Cohen (because she has a signed picture my dad/her granddad got when niece was quite young) and was proud to have remembered the name correctly, plus "Gracie something."

Nephew had nothing to add except "Monkey Man" -- I have no idea if he was making that up on the spot or was remembering someone or something he had seen as a child.

Yea, it is surprising when talking to the younger generation that the famous people you grew up with are only drawing blanks from them. I think it's about media promotion as well. I don't watch basketball but knew about Michael Jordan because of commercials. Same with Tiger Woods.
 

plushyfan

Record Breaker
Joined
Jun 27, 2012
Country
Hungary
Is Plushenko that famous outside of Russia? I'm not sure... Certainly his fame doesn't seem to reach the levels of Torvill & Dean, Grinkov & Gordeeva, or Katarina Witt in the west.

:) You don't know anything. Yes, I'm sure he is more famous outside of Russia as Torwill/ Dean or even Grinkov/ Gordeeva..probaly you are living in US, right? What is not known for you that is not exist?

-he was a rock star of skating- in Japan 2010 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhgCIV4PY8c probably only Yuzuru receives such thing now. His fans made traffic jam front of his hotel :thumbsup:

-In 2010 after his shows in Japan they rented a container because he took home 500kg! (cca 1100lb ) gifts he wanted to give to the orphanages.

- A star in the sky was named after him

- In Japan a new kind of orchids was named after him

- He was not only in Russian textbooks but he was a American physics textbook, they explaned the inertia with his spins, and he was a Japanese Russian language textbook, too

- In 2014 he was invited to an international golf tournament " Mission Hills WCPA" for famous people and athletes. He was in same team with Morgan Freeman who liked him a lot! They laughed together so much! ( Jessica Alba, and many more) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGHBajTpdv4&t=1m20s

- He was invited to the Sport Oscar two times

-Albert, Prince of Monaco invited him and his wife to a ball or festive event..

- In France he had show in Courcheval there were Catherine-Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas , they went to the background after the shows and they wanted to meet with Plushenko personally because Cathrine said he is her favorite athlete or skater..

-there are thousands of fan arts on him

-There are 260 fan montages on his channel on YT now and you believe me there were much more in his long career..Many of them were deleted, because the time flies..but 260 is impressive number of fan videos, right?

-He has an official site he was opened in 2009 , https://evgeni-plushenko.com/forum/ cca 30 millions clicks only in the "Everything about Evgeni" theme.

-The first ice-rink in the #Maldives has opened at @Jumeirah Vittaveli, inaugurated by Olympic Gold Medallist, Evgeni Plushenko: http://bit.ly/2mA5vKv he gave the city his skates and one of his costumes

-This is funny..when he was in Taiwan! at the first time and the first ice show in there..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubeiQRIkKcU like a rock star! the fans waited him in the airport

it's enogh? I can continue..I don't know any other skater who received such attention in general as Plushenko.
 

TallyT

Here for the High Lord of Extra
Record Breaker
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Country
Australia
I doubt than any skater, no matter how long they compete, can achieve worldwide fame just for athletic performance. Most athletes can't actually - famous athletes compete mostly in football, basketball, tennis or martial arts.

Errr.... even the list of sports you mention can be parochial, sorry. Few people here, even those who follow sport on an enthusiastic casual basis, could name a single basketballer if their lives depended on it, or any competitor at all in martial arts. And football covers such a range... if you mean soccer only, that might work.

This is what I mean, we all forget that other people in other places don't see the same news, follow the same sports, recognise the same names, as we do (without looking them up, who is Steve Davis? Ma Long? Imran Khan? Phar Lap?)
 

Baron Vladimir

Record Breaker
Joined
Dec 18, 2014
Is Plushenko that famous outside of Russia? I'm not sure... Certainly his fame doesn't seem to reach the levels of Torvill & Dean, Grinkov & Gordeeva, or Katarina Witt in the west.

In Europe (even if you don't count Russia) he is still the most known male figure skater. As other skaters you mentioned as representatives of their own skating disciplines. Well, i'm not sure G/G are more famous-well known among general european public than Irina Rodnina in pairs. That is a close call. I can't claim anything about Asia, but i know Plushenko was the inspiration for the one of two main protagonist (the other was Yuzuru off course) in recent Japanese anime figure skating series. And he is one of Yuzu idols, so... For the figure skating fans, especially younger ones, the current figure skaters are probably the most famous, but i was talking more about general european public, not about fans...
 

zanadude

Medalist
Joined
Feb 20, 2016
Shoma and one of the four ladies zanadude lists may still make it in 2022. It's a sobering thought though - only Kostornaia and Kihira meet the OP's other requirement (gold in one of the majors) and even if Shcherbakova and Trusova managed that... at least three of them still would be on any future version of this list.

Well, two gold medals awarded in the same Olympics is not without precedent...
 
Top