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Ladies Figure Skating: Janet Lynn and Peggy Fleming

Updated on March 2, 2015

In ladies figure skating, several terms have been used to define skaters and their styles.

The so called "athletic skaters" are skaters whose skating is largely characterized by technical merits rather than presentation merits. For instance, power skaters or jumpers are both athletic skaters categorically.

As opposed to the "athletic skaters", some skaters are called "artistic skaters", which means their skating more appeals to expressiveness than athleticism.

But as I once mentioned, the term "artistic" has been used very abusively; because being "expressive" does not mean being "artistic." As a matter of fact, many terms of figure skating today in relation with figure skating are often incorrect or misused by conventionality.

So to clarify the whole thing, let us first talk about a few terms such as "aesthetic" and "lyrical."

Although both terms are used to define characters of "artistic" skaters, there is a bit difference between them.

Now let us split the hair.

"Lyrical" has to do with expressing emotions or beauty. As opposed to an "aesthetic" skater, a "lyrical" skater tends to be good at musically "expressing" emotions or beauty.

So when we call a skater "lyrical", the skater is very expressive in music, that is, musically inspiring, through her skating skill. "Expressive" skaters are, therefore, to be called "lyrical" but its boundary is larger than "lyrical".

Being expressive includes elements other than skating itself such as acting of facial expressions, self confidence, vivaciousness, etc.

Meanwhile, "aesthetic" skaters are those whose entire skating lies in emphasizing principles of beauty and appreciating quality of beauty than just being "expressive".

Aesthetics also encompasses a larger artistic territory. It's more philosophically internalized and technically more advanced, so it's reasonable to consider aesthetics is reserved for a certain exceptional group of skaters.

So, I will limit "aesthetic" to a few skaters only, whose skating is in principle governed by both their artistic awakening and high level of technical ability to bring forth its embodiment.

In other words, lyricism is what you can copy in some degree. For example, Peggy Fleming was the first and perhaps the best lyrical skater ever, and countless skaters after her adopted Fleming's model, and succeeded in developing their own lyrical style.

Lyrical skaters include most of the so called "artistic" skaters you can think of, for example, Lisa Mary Anne, Denise Biellmann, Chen Lu, Oksana Baiul, Tara Lipinski, Michelle Kwan, etc.

But no one achieved the quality of Fleming's lyricism; perhaps Yuna Kim was the only one who reached closest to Fleming's style, especially incorporated into triple jumping technique.

Janet Lynn in 1969


In terms of style and technical level, Yuna Kim is a modern version of Peggy Fleming.

Yuna Kim's skating resembles Fleming's in many aspects. Physiological agility, technical style, superiority of contemporary technique, aesthetic consciousness, competitive ability, etc.

So, if Kim is a disciple of Fleming, who is of Lynn or Hamill?

If we divide skaters into two styles, they may be classified as either "athletic" skaters or "lyrical" - or conventionally known as "artistic" - skaters.

That may be an easy and conventional classification, but as I mentioned, the terms have been quite misused for long.

So, in terms of historic and technical genealogy, ladies figure skaters are divided into three groups: Peggy Fleming's disciples who became the mainstream until this day, Dorothy Hamill's disciples whose skating is characterized by athleticism, and Janet Lynn's.

The biggest name is Fleming's sector is Yuna Kim, and again Kim is a legitimate successor of Peggy Fleming.

Meanwhile, Janet Lynn and Dorothy Hamill don't have their own successors, though many skaters emulated them.

That's very obvious. Lynn's technical level is unreachable. Hamill's skating is a combination of power skating and Fleming's, a rarity - how can anyone do that?

People often say Lynn's skating is artistic as opposed to technical, but that can't be more wrong. Lynn's skating is utterly technical.

It's fair to say that Lynn's skating is too technical for non-experts to realize it's technical.

As for Hamill, no skater has ever been able to emulate Hamill whose skating was an ideal form of power skating, that is, rooted in the ground of refinement of aestheticism and lyricism.

The best candidates for Hamill's disciple can be Katarina Witt or Irina Slutskaya, but their skating are an embarrassing to the legacy of Hamill, the greatest power skater ever lived.

Dorothy Hamill in 1976


"Athletic" skaters such as Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas, or Irina Slutskaya depends on strength, speed and proficiency.

They are typically weak in line, extensions, flexibility, accuracy, refinement, aesthetics, lyricism, etc.

Jumpers are those whose skating is distinctively characterized by jumping ability, for example, Linda Fratianne, Elaine Zayak, Midori Ito, Yuka Sato, etc.

So, since Dorothy Hamill, the so called "athletic" skaters were split into two sectors. Apparently it's not practical to retain all the elements of Hamill's.

Janet Lynn's disciple?

Lynn, like Hamill, too doesn't have any legitimate disciple, countless skaters emulated her.

Lynn's skating turned to a myth as the sport passed through the tunnel of modernity.

I remember some years ago one talked about Lynn's "silent skating" when he or she compared Yuna Kim's skating with Lynn's.

Though Yuna Kim is stylistically closer to Peggy Fleming, she also shares a critical element with Lynn in that her skating is quality-conscious.

Kim's contribution to the quality is unique in triple era; however, the original quality comes from the legends in the 1970s, especially from Janet Lynn.

More than 40 years ago, at the dawn of modern figure skating, Lynn was conscious of the basic quality of figure skating. As some of you already know by now, Lynn's skating style is to minimize disruption in momentum, that is, following the least action principle, balance and stability engineered by impact absorbing mechanism on ice.

This is one of Lynn's skating characters, and it governs all her moves on ice. Lynn's skating particularly enables us to appreciate skating in terms of level and quality that matters.

To illustrate it easier, think of it in terms of resolution.

Skaters in the 70s skated with 720p or higher, since then skaters in the 80s showed only 480p, the 90s, 360p and finally skaters in 21st century scratched barely 240p.

Yuna Kim in 2014: This is how you skate

What do you think is the most important factor to the quality of ladies figure skating?

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      remedy 3 years ago

      peggy? yes lynn ? yes dorothy? maybe Yuna? The end of female figure skating!

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      sun kim 3 years ago

      I miss yuna


      당신은 역사상 최고의 스케이터에요


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      Johny Parker 3 years ago

      Yuna has a perfection. I miss Yuna.