10 Greatest Female Figure Skaters of All Time

Figure skating is an athletic event that is so beautiful to watch. It is a sport that involves a lot of jumps, spins, footwork, and other complicated and difficult maneuvers on ice; and wherein the participants, whether an individual, a pair, or group, are judged not only for their technical abilities but also for their artistic talents.

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There are some many great female figure skaters, who did not only excel in the sport in their home territories but also on the international stage by winning many World and Olympic titles. As follows is my list of the greatest ladies singles figure skaters of all time:

  1. Sonja Henie (Norway)

    This figure skater has won more Olympic (1928, 1932 and 1936) and World Championship (1927 – 1936) titles than any ladies figure skater in history, earning her the nickname “Queen of Ice.” Sonja Henie was the first figure skater to wear the short skirt attire and employ choreographed dance in her routines. Her pioneering skating methods and alluring stage presence popularized the sport completely, turning it into a legitimate sport in the Winter Olympics. Following her 1936 Olympic and World triumphs, she pursued a career in Hollywood, becoming one of the highest paid actresses at the time.

  2. Herma Szabo (Austria)

    Having won the 1924 Olympic title and five consecutive World championships (1922-1926), she is the most successful figure skater Austria has ever produced. She also competed in pairs skating partnering with a fellow Austrian Ludwig Wrede, winning two World titles (1925 and 1927).

  3. Katarina Witt (Germany)

    Her competitive record of two consecutive Olympic (1984 and 1988) and four World championships (1984-1985, 1987-1988) titles makes her one of the greatest figure skaters in history. Katarina Witt is best known not only for her athletic abilities but also for her stunning good looks and sex appeal.

  4. Carol Heiss (United States)

    Even after earning silver in the 1956 Winter Olympics, Carol Heiss turned down every offer to turn professional in order to fulfill her promise of winning a gold medal for her mother who died of cancer in 1956. Between 1956 and 1960, she completely conquered the sport, winning five World championships (1956-1960), four US titles (1957-1960) and the 1960 Olympic title, in which she became the first female skater to successfully perform the double axel jump.

  5. Michelle Kwan (United States)

    America’s most decorated figure skater. Her technical consistency and expressive artistry have won her five World titles (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2003) and a record of nine US championships (1996, 1998-2005). She also earned a silver and a bronze at the 1998 Nagano and 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, respectively. She is also known for her ever elegant change-of-edge spiral, which is very much regarded as her signature move.

  6. Irina Slutskaya (Russia)

    As a two-time World champion (2002, 2005), seven-time European champion (2000-01, 2003, 2005-06) and a two time Olympic medallist (silver 2002, bronze 2006), she is definitely the most successful ladies singles skater to come out of Russia. She is much recognized for her athleticism, being the first female skater to land the triple lutz, triple loop combination and the triple salchow, triple loop, double toe-loop combination. She also invented what would become her trademark, the double Biellmann spin with foot change.

  7. Peggy Fleming (United States)

    Her unique style brought her five US titles (1964-1968), three World titles (1966-1968) and the 1968 Olympic gold medal, which incidentally was the only gold medal that the US team won in the Games. Peggy Fleming has been acting as figure skating commentator for ABC Sports for more than twenty years, including a few Winter Olympic Games.

  8. Kristi Yamaguchi (United States)

    What is so amazing about her having won two World championship titles (1991-92) and the gold medal at the 1992 Albertville Olympic Games was the fact she was born with club feet and took up skating as therapy to treat them. A well-rounded skater, Kristi Yamaguchi won over her competitors (who were consistently performing the difficult triple axel jumps) by focusing on artistic expression and triple-triple jump combinations.

  9. Dorothy Hamill (United States)

    The 1974 and 1975 World silver medallist; and the 1976 World and Olympic champion. Her Olympic victory, along with her sunny personality endeared her to worldwide audiences, and would soon after become America’s sweetheart. Dorothy Hamill is attributed with creating a new skating move known as the “Hamill camel,” which is a camel spin that develop into a sit spin.

  10. Chen Lu

    The first Chinese figure skater to medal (bronze 1992) and win at the World championships (1995); and the first Chinese figure skater to medal at the Olympics, two consecutive Olympics at that (bronze in 1994 and 1998). She is celebrated not only for her graceful skating but also for her athletic prowess, as she frequently jumped more triples than many of her contemporaries. Much praised for her artistic sensitivity, she often incorporated Asian influences into her routines.

More articles on Greatest Athletes series:

Articles on the Olympics:

Golden Olympic Performances:

Olympic Greats:

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21 Comments
  1. diane mccloskey
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Very nicely written and good information! Thanks!

  2. Verniel Cutar
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 8:55 am

    This is one aspect of sports that some people overlook, but it’s equally interesting to games such as basketball and baseball. Im sure these athletes worked hard to achieve greatness in their chosen field. Thanks for posting this collection, Eddie. Good work.

  3. eunice tan
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks for the informations. Before I only knew Michelle Kwan & Katarina Witt.

  4. nobert soloria bermosa
    Posted August 14, 2008 at 12:08 am

    nice bro

  5. Hein Marais
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 5:39 am

    Very interesting Article.

  6. Posted November 6, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Very informational, i used to ice-skate myself, I loved it. Well done!

  7. Mookie
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    lol Sasha Cohen is #1 on my list

  8. tomkins0226
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Now, the list must include Yu-Na Kim.

  9. Posted March 16, 2010 at 6:26 am

    i’ll vote for yuna on my list

  10. Nina klokset
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Sonjaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa :D She`s the best ever – but Kwan is great too :) I love how they make figure skating look sooo easy, knowing how hard it is (I am not a figure skater myself, but I do have a passion for the sport) and I have great respect for those who are doing this.

    :)

  11. Mike
    Posted January 31, 2011 at 2:09 am

    Great article, but you should have included Midori Ito. She is by far the best female jumper of all time, having consistently landed triple axels and even triple axel-triple toe loops. Only Mao Asada is as consistent. If you’re going by world/Olympic titles though, unfortunately Ito comes up short, but man could she jump.

  12. Flyer
    Posted February 3, 2011 at 12:31 am

    This list seem very outdated. I can’t believe you don’t have Yuna Kim in your top five. She is a living legend. When greats such as Scott Hamilton, Kristy Yamaguchi and others saids she has took women’s skating to another level. She belong on top of the lists.
    And she is the only skater that can bring artistry and athletic ability to women’s skating. Did you ever see “Dance Macabre ?” Textbook jumps combined with her interputation of the music nobody can match her.
    You need to revise this list.

  13. anthony
    Posted April 30, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Chen Lu? Why is Chen Lu on the list? Only two bronze medals and just one world title and you have Chen Lu at 10 of ALL TIME? Ridiculous. She wouldn’t even make the top 50. Her name shouldn’t even be mentioned when speaking of greatest of all time.

  14. jonathan
    Posted May 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    WHERES YU NA KIM?

  15. jonathan
    Posted May 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    WHERES YU NA KIM?

  16. Annette
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    What about Midori Ito? She’s just gotta be in there somewhere!

  17. Alex
    Posted November 1, 2011 at 3:49 am

    No such a list is ever complete without Midori Ito!

  18. Aleina
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Why even come with Ito Midori?? No offense but Ito with Sonja Henie, Katarina Witt, Michelle Kwan or Irina Slutskaya in that list? Come on. This is outdated, Yuna Kim definitely should be included

  19. JNagarya
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Flyer
    Posted February 3, 2011 at 12:31 am
    This list seem very outdated. I can’t believe you don’t have Yuna Kim in your top five. She is a living legend.
    _____

    One must be at skating more than a few years — and be consistent — before one can become a legend. Regardless your jealousy and insecurity, touting her as a legend does not make her such.

    Hero hero, Michelle Kwan, is a legend. That is based not only on excellence, but also consistency of excellence, and endurance. Yu Na Kim has been inconsistent, and hasn’t been around all that long.

  20. Katie
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    YUNA KIM definitely deserves to be on this list.

  21. Shamira
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    JNagarya…

    Yuna Kim inconsistent? Are you kidding me?

    Where were you when Scott Hamilton and every other notable skating legend raved about Yuna being the most consistent figure skater of all time? I know your post is a year old but damn. Her consistency has been praised way before she even won the Olympics. Never have I ever in my decades of watching figure skating witnessed announcers predicting successful jumps even before execution, gushing over how Yuna will nail them.

    Inconsistency? She’s never finished off the podium in every single one of over 30 international competitions.

    Inconsistency? She’s the most consistent jumper of all time, not just via expert opinion but numerically on record.

    By the way, she just beat everyone at worlds by a 20-point margin after a year-long hiatus. So get the hell out of here with your ridiculousness about “inconsistency.”

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