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Great Skaters : Linda Fratianne, Almost Legend

Updated on September 6, 2014

Linda Fratianne: A skater who would level with legends

The introduction of short program in 1973 changed the course of sport. Although the importance of jump had been recognized well before Lynn's time, the "jump" question was fundamentally a quest for objectivity of the sport.

The first female skater that landed a triple jump for the first time was Petra Burka, the Canadian World Champion in 1965. But it was Linda Fratianne who was first able to deliver multiple triple jumps. As Frank Carorroll mentioned, Fratianne "would land triples .. as if she were landing a double axel."

Following Fratianne, Elaine Zayak unleashed six triple jumps in the 1982 World Championships. The ISU worried then if the sport would turn to a jumping competition, and changed the rules to restrict the number of triple jumps.

Zayak was a pioneer jumper who paved the way of jumping contest in the ladies figure skating. Zayak defeated Katarina Witt in the 1982 World Championships, but with the newly imposed rules that hampered Zayak's advantage, Zayak was soon edged out by Katarina Witt.

Linda Fratianne in 1980

Linda Fratianne: a skater who led 1980s.

Even in today's standard, Fratianne's skating shows incredible degree of proficiency and accuracy.

Fratianne was a skater with an ideal bodily shape and technical proficiency. Fratianne was not far from the great 70s represented by Janet Lynn and Dorothy Hamill.

Her skating was an example of ladies figure skating's rapid development from the establishment of modern ladies figure skating.

Fratianne's skating was firmly rooted in the 70s yet sharp, accurate, proficient and progressive in style as well as technique.

Linda Fratianne: mother of all jumpers

What do you think is the best quality in Linda Fratianne's jump?

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Linda Fratianne: a genius skater in the early 1980s

Linda Fratianne was a genius skater whose skating benefited from 1970s. In fact, Fratianne at her 15 participated in the 1976 Olympics with Dorothy Hamill.

As the clip above testified, her jumping technique was unprecedented. Especially due to affinity to the 1970s when the ladies figure skating had thrived with the legendary skaters such as Janet Lynn and Dorothy Hamill, Fratianne's skating was close to ideal and all-rounded.

Her body shape looked sharper than Hamill, her jump's proficiency was uncontested, and her skating skills were all benefited from her predecessors.

It goes without saying that her own jumping talent was added as a greatest asset. Fratianne, as a link 70s to 80s, paved the way to triple era.

Surya Bonaly in 1993

Surya Bonaly: an acrobatic jumper

The historic struggle between compulsories and free skating had ended in free skating's victory. After the 1970s when the new definition of the sport had been established, skaters experimented various styles and their own interpretation of figure skating.

Filling the void of compulsories, jump quickly became the most important element of the sport. Skaters in the 1980s adopted triple jumps fast and devoted themselves to honing various jumping techniques.

Obviously it's the most conspicuous way of distancing themselves from the rest. Judges were also easily persuaded by the number of jumps performed and their difficulty. As a result, in the 1980s through 1990s the focus of ladies figure skaters were how to impress the judges with jumps.

But the question was : which is the better of two skaters when one skated with difficult jumps but deficient in overall skating skill while the other performed easier jumps?

Katarina Witt, two time Olympic gold medalist, found herself in that debate when she returned in 1994 after retirement. Witt received the best artistic marks still, but her technical score was too low to compete skaters in the 1990s who were armed with triple jumps.

Another study case was Yuka Sato and Surya Bonaly in 1994. Sato was clearly a better skater in edge and flow, while Bonaly was a superior jumper with poor skating skills in general.

Although Bonaly was often criticized for her lack of skating skill, her acrobatic ability was astounding. Bonaly was a talented jumper and technically superior to her peers, even able to do a back flip and land with one-foot.

When Bonaly made a scene by refusing to accept sliver medal at the ceremony in the 1994 Worlds in Chiba, Japan, protesting the result that favored Yuna Sato, it was an incident in which the ongoing struggle in defining the ultimate perfection in the ladies figure skating surfaced in a personal capacity.

Bonaly was a three time World silver medalist, a five time European Champion and a nine time France national champion.

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Who do do you think is better jumper among Linda Fratianne, Midori Ito, Elaine Zayak and Surya Bonaly?

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