10 Greatest Male Figure Skaters of All Time
The sport of figure skating does not only emphasize athleticism and technical perfection but also artistic expression. This is my list of history’s ten greatest men singles figure skaters who have proven themselves in all these aspects, and in the process, won many world and/or Olympic titles.
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Ulrich Salchow (Sweden)
Salchow almost completely dominated figure skating throughout the first decade of the 20th century. Having won ten World titles (1901-05, 1907-11), which is a record he shares with Sonja Henie, this figure skater has won more World titles than any male figure skater in history, He also won nine European championships (1898-1900, 1904, 1906-1907, 1909-1910, 1913) and was the very first Olympic champion when the figure skating event was first included at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games. In a competition in 1909, he first performed a jump wherein he took off on the back inside edge and landed on the other foot’s back inside edge; this jump would eventually be named after him.
Karl Schäfer (Austria)
A seven-time World (1930-1936), eight-time European (1929-1936) and a two-time Olympic champion (1932, 1936). Very talented and versatile, he also played excellent violin and was national breaststroke champion of Austria for several years.
Richard “Dick” Button (United States)
Truly one of the greatest and most popular skaters of all time. Dick Button is a five-time World champion (1948-1952), seven -time US champion (1947-1952), the first and only American to win two consecutive Olympic titles (1948, 1952) and the only American to win the European championships in 1956, when non-Europeans were still allowed to compete. By winning the 1948 Olympic title, he became the youngest man to even win the figure skating gold at the Olympics at age 18. He is the first skater to successfully perform the double axel and a triple jump (the triple loop). He is also the first skater to do the camel spin and the creator of the flying camel spin called the “Button Camel” after him. He has been a figure skating commentator for ABC Sports since 1962 and is much well known for his direct and often caustic evaluation of skaters’ performances.
Scott Hamilton (United States)
The winner of four consecutive World championships (1981-1984), four consecutive US Championships (1981-1984) and the 1984 Olympic gold. Scott Hamilton has overcome many obstacles in life, having been struck as a child with a mysterious illness that caused him to stop growing (he grew only to 5 foot 2 ½ inches tall), almost forced to give up skating at age 18 due to financial constraints, and battled much-publicized testicular cancer in 1997. He is best known for his creativity and engaging personas whenever he performs.
Evgeni Plushenko (Russia)
His competitive record of being a five-time European champion (2000-01, 2003, 2005-06), three-time World champion (2001, 2003-04) and the 2006 Olympic gold medallist certainly makes him one of the greatest skaters that Russia ever produced. Evgeni Plushenko is much recognized for his exceptional technical abilities, being one of the very few male skaters to execute the Biellman spin. He was also consistently landing numerous quadruple, quadruple-triple and quadruple-triple-double jump combinations successfully in major competitions.
Alexei Yagudin (Russia)
Another great skater to come out of Russia. Alexei Yagudin won the World championships five times (1998-2000, 2002), the European championships three times (1998-1999, 2002) and the 2002 Winter Olympic gold. In the 2002 Games, he became the first male skater in fifty years to receive first-place ranks from every judge in all the competition stages. He also earned four perfect 6.0 marks for presentation; no other male skater had ever received more than one perfect mark in the history of the Olympics.
Brian Boitano (United States)
The first American to successfully land a triple axel. Brian Boitano introduced what would become his trademark jump, the “Tano triple lutz, in which the left arm is raised above the head. His athleticism and technical skills helped pushed the technical boundaries of men”s skating, and won him four US (1985-1988), World (1986, 1988) and the 1988 Olympic titles.
Kurt Browning (Canada)
A four World championship (1989-91, 1993) and four Canadian national (1989-91, 1993) titlist. At the 1988 Budapest World championships, he became the first ever skater to land a quadruple jump cleanly in competition.
Elvis Stojko (Canada)
A karate black belt at age 16; and a three-time World champion (1994-95, 1997), seven-time Canadian national champion (1994, 1996-2000 and 2002) and a two-time Olympic silver medalist (1994, 1998). Elvis Stojko became the first man to land the quadruple-double combination at the 1991 Worlds and a quadruple-triple combination at the 1997 Grand Prix Finals.
Viktor Petrenko (USSR/Unified Team/Ukraine)
Upon doctor’s recommendation to engage in a sport that will improve his health and strength as he was quite sickly as a child, his parents enrolled him in figure skating. Viktor Petrenko would go on to win the 1992 World championships and European championship three times (1990-91, 1994). He also competed for the Unified Team in the 1992 Winter Olympics and won, thereby becoming the first man from the former Soviet Union to earn the gold medal in singles figure skating.
More articles on Greatest Athletes series:
- (Almost) Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Male Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- Greatest American Female Gymnasts
- Greatest American Male Gymnasts
- 10 Greatest Female Figure Skaters of All Time
- 10 Greatest Male Figure Skaters of All Time
Articles on the Olympics:
- Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
- Unforgettable Moments of The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
- Michael Phelps: The Greatest Olympian of All Time
Golden Olympic Performances:
- Men Singles Figure Skating
- Ladies Singles Figure Skating
- Men’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise
- Men’s Gymnastics – Pommel Horse
- Men’s Gymnastics – Still Rings
- Men’s Gymnastics – Horizontal Bar
- Men’s Gymnastics – Parallel Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Uneven Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Balance Beam
- Women’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise