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Hall of Fame: the Geniuses
Most top figure skaters are talented. Among them are a small number of geniuses who possess a towering talent that cannot be hidden. What makes a skater genius is not competition record, but individual talents. Competition is one of tests to sort the nature of genius, but that's not enough to fully appreciate what really matters in ladies figure skating.
Among many great skaters are not necessarily genius with inborn talent. They may even be highly visionary, highly competitive, or historically important, but they may not be necessarily extraordinary in talent. Those geniuses are equipped with figure skating assets other skaters only dream. One of prominent features about geniuses is that they tend to surpass their time: Some of them are not only the best in their time but also remain the timeless best.
Here are the list for 10 geniuses in ladies figure skating.
Madge Syer, Sonja Henie, Tenley Albright, Janet Lynn, Dorothy Hamill, Denise Biellemann, Midori Ito, Oksana Baiul, Tara Lipinski, Yuna Kim.
Madge Syer was a skater before the dawn of ladies figure skating. Her time was even before the great Sonja Henie. In her time, no women dared to skate let alone competing. Syer not only skated with men but also beat them down. Before establishing any concept of ladies figure skating, Syer hands down reigned the ladies figure skating like no other. Syer was perhaps the only figure skater in history who actually beat men in competition.
Sonja Henie was the greatest skater in the dawn of ladies figure skating. No skater has ever achieved what Henie did, perhaps never shall.
But Henie's reputation goes even beyond figure skating itself; Henie was not only the best figure skater at the time but also by and large the best in any sports. Before the beginning of classic figure skating, Henie, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and ten time World gold medalist, was a giant whose talent outshone the sport itself.
Classic figure skating started with Tenley Albright. Her extraordinary statue even overshadowed Caroll Heiss, one of the most accomplished skaters of all time.
Tenley Albright was perhaps one of the most underrated skaters in history. Albright was a skater whose skills were beyond her time. The agility of her moves would humiliate today's skaters.
More importantly, Albright's unprecedented skating skills made it possible to open the era of classic figure skating. Even in today's skating standards, Albright's skill appears in top level.
The greatest of all time in ladies figure skating is Janet Lynn.
Her visions and skills are simply timeless. Lynn was largely credited for her contribution to the start of modern figure skating. However, the greatest achievement in her skating career was her technical brilliance in the form of aesthetics, which would later be known as artistic skating.
Her exploitation of aesthetics became the seed of modern figure skating as we know it, and set the sport apart from the classic figure skating rooted in the balance between compulsories and its applications, that is, free skating.
Dorothy Hamill was a skater whose skating assets are the best of all time as yet.
Hamill's skating was an exceptional form of power skating and lyrical skating. Hamill was the only skater who demonstrated both features in her skating.
What made Hamill's skating an idealistic balance between the two seemingly incompatible styles of ladies figure skating was her affinity to two giants, Janet Lynn and Peggy Fleming. At the dawn of modern figure skating, Hamill's skating was a new ideal yet to be realized.
In a time of transition when Lynn shifted the weight of the sport from compulsories to free skating, after Fleming had completed classic figure skating by demonstrating the ideal in the balance between compulsories and free skating, Hamill's skating was a jewel prior to triple era led by Linda Fratianne.
Denise Biellemann was famous for her signature spin. Certainly, her innovation featured with what would later be known as Biellemann spin enthralled her contemporary audience.
But, what makes Biellemann outstanding was her inborn agility shown in her skating.
Biellemann was the most talented skater in the late 70s through early 80s, during which time skaters began to throw triple jumps while their basic skills, especially related to compulsories, declined due to the fact that more weight shifted from compulsories to triple jumps.
Midori Ito was a star skater in the 1980s. Her jumping ability was even superior to men's. It is no coincidence that Ito was the first woman figure skater who landed triple axels.
Ito's talent as a jumper was unprecedented. Especially, in Ito's time skaters still struggled with triple jump; no skater handled jumps as masterfully as Ito. People marveled at how easily Ito managed triple jumps.
Her jumping style, however, tended to reflect more acrobatic than aesthetic; and more manly than womanly. Her skating was thus far from the ideal of ladies figure skating.
Oksana Baiul was arguably the best skater in the 1990s, during which time more successful skaters, such as Katarina Witt and Michelle Kwan, dominated the landscape of ladies figure skating. Baiul's greatness lies in her ability to bring out high degree of freedom on ice.
Compared to her peers, Baiul stood out in her expressiveness rooted in her skating skills. Although skaters at her time were able to land triple jumps, their performance tended to be a juxtaposition of various elements, not a contextual program like Baiul's.
Tara Lipinski was one of prodigies to be accurate.
But Lipinski's skating, often characterized by her edge skills and expressiveness, even overshadowed the reigning queen of figure skating, Michelle Kwan.
Unfortunately Lipinski's career was too short to grace the world with full fledged maturity, but people wondered what Lipinski could have done hadn't she retired so early. A similar case to Lipinski's is Mao Asada, Yuna Kim's famous rival.
Yuna Kim was a skater with unprecedented jumping ability and technical proficiency. Kim was stylistically a modern rendition of Peggy Fleming; however, accurately speaking, Kim's skating was an upgraded version of Lynn's modern figure skating.
Kim was largely regarded as the best skater in modern figure skating, especially since Dorothy Hamill.
Those geniuses mentioned above are all talented, but the degrees of their genius are also different. So, to split the hair, I rank them as follows.
1. Janet Lynn
2. Madge Syer
3. Sonja Henie
4. Yuna Kim
5. Dorothy Hamill
6. Tenley Albright
7. Denise Biellemann
8. Midori Ito
9. Oksana Baiul
10. Tara Lipinski