Olympic figure skating’s best moments
All Olympic figure skating requires skill, strength and speed – but some performances go beyond the technical to deliver the remarkable. Blurring the lines between skating and art, these pieces get thunderous applause and standing ovations as bouquets of flowers rain down on the rink. From Sarajevo 1984 to PyeongChang 2018, we relive the most captivating figure skating performances ever seen at the Winter Olympics.
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Sarajevo 1984
On Valentine’s Day 1984, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean performed their free dance to Ravel’s Boléro. From the off, it was groundbreaking, as you can read in our throwback article. The pair opened by kneeling on the ice – an innovative way to extend their performance. In an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Dean explained: “The stopwatch only started when you began to skate … and our blades don’t hit the ice for several bars”.
For the next four minutes and 28 seconds, they enchanted the audience with their Romeo and Juliet-esque story and received perfect scores from the judges. With 6.0s across the board – the maximum number of points awarded under the old system – the duo claimed their rightful place on the figure skating podium, taking gold for Great Britain. Watch the performance here.
Joannie Rochette, Vancouver 2010
“This is for my mom,” said Joannie Rochette when she won Olympic bronze at Vancouver 2010. Just days before the tournament, the skater’s mother passed away unexpectedly. Rochette performed her pieces as practised, but her emotions took over at the Olympic Gala Exhibition. She told the Olympic Channel: “I was skating to James Bond’s ‘Die Another Day’ and thought that wasn’t really appropriate. So I reused another routine.” Honouring her late mother with an uplifting performance to ‘Vole’, which translates as ‘fly’, by Céline Dion, the Canadian received a standing ovation from the crowd. Watch the performance here.
Yuna Kim, Vancouver 2010
Fondly known as Queen Yuna by her legions of dedicated fans in South Korea, Olympic figure skater Yuna Kim was seen as a sweetheart on skates. And her status as skating royalty was cemented during her short programme at Vancouver 2010; Kim emerged as a Bond girl, striking bold moves to a medley of songs from 007 movies. Her elite skill and enchanting performance claimed a new world record with her score of 78.50 and South Korea’s first ever gold medal in the event. Watch the routine here.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, Sochi 2014
Russian skating duo Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov made their claim for gold performing to rock opera classic Jesus Christ Superstar. Inspired by the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, they retold the love story of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Huge lifts and gravity-defying throws mirrored the building tempo, coupled to intricate footwork and a flawless flow – the drama was sustained until the very last second, leaving the audience awe-struck. “It is unbelievable. The atmosphere is electric,” exclaims the commentator in this unmissable video coverage of the performance.
Yuzuru Hanyu, Sochi 2014
At Sochi 2014, the moment Japanese figure skating sensation Yuzuru Hanyu skated on to the rink, he commanded the attention of the whole crowd with his short programme to Parisian Walkways. Cruising around the rink with a laid-back charisma, Hanyu matched the guitar riffs with complex footwork and executed difficult moves flawlessly without a hint of hesitation. He set a new world record for the men’s singles with his short programme score of 101.45 and went on to win the gold medal. Watch the performance here.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, PyeongChang 2018
PyeongChang was the first Olympics where figure skaters were allowed to incorporate lyrics as well as music into their performance. Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took full advantage of this new rule, performing an impassioned routine to the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge. From the rugged undertones of Roxanne to the pure emotion of Come What May, the Canadian duo used their natural chemistry to take the audience on a whirlwind romance. “We just skated for each other,” said Moir in an interview with Canada’s CTV News.
Not only did the routine win gold in the pair’s ice dance, it also cemented their legacy in the ice-capped hall of fame – making them the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. Watch the performance here.
Relive the best Olympic figure skating moments on the Olympic Channel, and become an instant expert with our beginner’s guide.