The Best Figure Skaters of All Time
With the 2018 Winter Olympics kicking off in PyeongChang this week, we uncover the most decorated figure skaters in history.
The Winter Olympics are back this week, and that means a return of everyone's favorite sport: Figure skating. Though you might be aware of some of the most famous US and Canadian ice dancers of your era (we love you Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton!), you might be wondering who exactly are the best figure skaters of all time? Real Simple dove into the Olympic archives to uncover the most winning Olympic figure skaters. Here, 11 names you need to know.
This elegant, artistic, Swedish figure skater won the gold medal in Individual Men’s Ice Skating at the 1920, 1924, and 1928 Olympic Games, technically making him the best figure skater of all time. Grafström took home the silver at Lake Placid’s 1932 games, too. Known for his innovative tricks on ice, he was the first person to come up with the spiral, as well as the change and flying sit spins.
Russian Evgeni Plushenko is the most accomplished figure skater to hit the ice in recent years. He won gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics in the Individual Men’s competition and in the Team Mixed event at 2014’s games in Sochi. He’s also taken home the silver in the Individual Men’s competitions in 2010 and 2002.
A contemporary of Grafström, Norwegian skater Sonja Henie also dominated the ice during the 1920s and 30s. Her first Olympic appearance was at 1924’s Chamonix games, when she was only 11 years old. She came in last place that year, but improved so much after that she was able to take home the gold only four years later at the St. Moritz games.
Though she competed in the 1970s, Rodnina remains history’s most successful pairs skater. When skating in the 1972 Sapporo games with then-figure skating partner Alexei Ulanov, the pair took home the gold in the Mixed Pairs competition. The pair split shortly after they clinched the gold, as Ulanov had fallen in love with fellow USSR skater Liudmila Smirnova. Rodina then met Alexander Zaitsev, her future husband and skating partner. The two would go on to win Olympic titles in 1976 and 1980.
Dmitriev is another skater who won three Olympic medals with two different partners. He won gold with Natalia Mishkutionok at the 1992 Albertville olympics, representing the Unified Team (the former USSR). The two also took home the silver at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics representing Russia. After 1994, Mishkutionok retired and Dmitriev started skating with Oksana Kazakova. Together, they won the gold medal in Pairs Skating at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Dmitriev’s 25 year-old son, Artur Jr., is also currently an award-winning figure skater.
The Brunets represented France at the 1924, 1928, and 1932 Olympics and were one of the first couples to move the focus away from creating designs on the ice and instead show athleticism via tricks. Andrée also was the first woman to rebel against wearing white while performing. Instead, she opted to wear black to match Pierre. The couple’s son, Jean-Pierre, became an accomplished American pairs skater, too.
Virtue, 28, and Moir, 30, are the only skaters on this list to compete at PyeongChang in 2018. Fun fact: They were also the Canadian flag carriers at the opening ceremony. They’ve been skating as a pair for 20 years (Moir’s aunt Carol teamed them up when he was nine and she was seven). That dedication to each other has paid off in the decades since: They won the gold at 2010’s Vancouver games in the Mixed Ice Dance competition and took home the silver from 2014’s Sochi games in the Mixed Ice Dance and Team Mixed competitions. The 2018 games will be their last Olympics together, where they will attempt to claim the title of first ice skaters in history to win five medals at the Olympics. Catch them compete at the team event and the ice dance event later this week.
Davis and White are the most decorated American ice dancers in history, winning three Olympic medals (a Gold and a bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the silver at 2010’s Vancouver games). Aside from their international domination, both competed on season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. Davis took home the championship with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Though they’re not dancing at this year's games, you can still catch them performing together on various ice tours across the country.