Queens of the Game
Reginas on the Ice
Over the span of more than 120 years figure skating has seen many great champions. Due to the extremely strenuous nature of the sport, figure skater's competitive life has been proved pretty short. Most skaters would peak only for barely a couple of years or even less, but some exceptional stretched their dominance to several years or even beyond. As figure skating evolves, its formats are also modified, and it has increasingly become as rigorous and demanding a competition as can be. Despite many obstacles and extreme difficulties, a few names were capable of pulling through super human like achievements. Of course, a skater's greatness as an athlete surpasses the number of titles he or she has claimed. Competitiveness has also varied on time, but to measure how competitive skaters are, one may need only to look at the records of their career, which is an objective way to evaluate the greatness of their championships.
1. Sonja Henie
No female figure skaters ever won more titles, either of Olympics or Worlds, than Sonja Henie. Born in 1912, This Norwegian figure skater was a three time Olympic Champion, ten time World Champion, and six-time European Champion. Henie was also a top Hollywood actress, one of the highest-paid stars. If anyone was worthy of the term queen of ice, it would be Henie. Henie, born in 1912 in Oslo, Norway as the only daughter of Wilhelm Henie, a wealthy businessman. It was under her father's influence that Henie was engaged in various sports activities early, and showed talent for tennis and swim, but eventually settled for figure skating. Henie's competitive edge is clearly shown in her ten time World champion belt from 1927 to 1936. Henie's career was not without controversy such as her tie with Nazis, but her gigantic talent was simply timeless.
2. Yuna Kim
For a leading exemplar of modern female figure skating, Kim's career records may not look as glittering as other champs, but a closer look of it would give you a different picture than the numbers suggest. Yuna Kim, born in 1990 in Korea, was an Olympic Champion, two time World Champion and six time Korean Nationals, which appears somewhat modest at best for the record of a champion, but at the height of her career Kim claimed all major titles available at the time: one time Olympics, two time Worlds, one time Four Continents, three time Grand Prix Final. More important, Kim broke world record scores 11 times under the ISU Judging System since 2007, eight of which was against her own previous records. What makes this South Korean skater unique is that throughout all her career, including her novice and junior career, Kim never finished a competition off the podium. In other words, from the very beginning of her career as figure skater, Kim was always a medal contender regardless of the games she entered, which is historically unprecedented - even Sonja Henie had a fledgling time when she was unnoticed. This gave Kim an almost invincible image.
3. Carol Heiss
Carol Heiss, born in 1940, was an American figure skater, who won an Olympic silver in 1956 and an Olympic gold in 1960, and was also a five-time World Champion in 1956 through 1960. Heiss started skating at 6 and won the U.S. novice title at 11 and in 1952, she also won the U.S. junior title. After moved to senior level, Heiss was eclipsed by the then reigning champion Tenley Albright who won Nationals 5 times consecutively from 1952 to 1956. In the 1956 Olympics Heiss again finished behind Abright, who took gold. That's the last time for Heiss to stand behind Albright. At the following Worlds held in West Germany, Heiss finally seized the overdue gold, which marks the beginning of her 5 consecutive world title career. Her reign was a complete one. Between 1957 and 1960, Heiss was the World and U.S. Champion each year, and in 1960, Heiss took Olympic gold with a unanimous decision by all nine judges. Heiss was the first female skater to land a double axel. Inducted into both World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and the United States Skating Hall of Fame, Heiss was cast in 1961 for the lead actress in a film.
Szabo won an Olympic gold in 1924, and won five times World Championships in 1922 through 1926. Except that Szabo's time, even earlier than Sonja Henie, was far from modern figure skating, Szabo was a name to remember in the early ladies figure skating before Sonja Henie's emergence. Putting her name on the 5 time World title winner club, Szabo was also credited for wearing a skirt cut above the knee for the first time. In her time Szabo was the most dominant female figure skater like Sonja Henie, Carol Heiss and Michelle Kwan.
5. Katarina Witt
Katarina Witt was a four time World Champion (1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988) and two time World silver medalist. Witt was also the only skater who won Olympic gold twice, and won six consecutive European Championships, and between 1984 and 1988, Witt won ten golds from eleven major international events; two Olympics, four out of five World Championships and six European Championships. Her competitive record makes her one of the most successful figure skaters of all time. Witt, though her skating wasn't as admired as her competitiveness, was a skater who knew how to break her competitors. Witt was one of the most successful skaters in history both on and off ice. Especially Witt was famous for her expressive showmanship, but what made Witt special was her steely nerve to draw out the best of herself, whether of jumping consistency or theatricality, when it mattered the most.
6. Michelle Kwan
Kwan was an Olympic silver medalist in 1998 and 2002, and a five-time World champion (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003). Kwan was indisputably one of the greatest figure skaters of all time, known for her consistency and expressiveness. Kwan as one of America's most popular female athletes won five World Championships, which equates her in the number of World title with Carol Heiss. Especially, Kwan's nine World medals overall, nine U.S. Championships titles, 8 consecutive U.S. titles, and 12 consecutive U.S. Championships medals testify am incomparable magnitude of dominance. Kwan was also awarded a combined total of 57 perfect marks under 6.0 judging system. For over a decade, Kwan dominated ladies figure skating and in Kwan's tenure, figure skating was one of the most popular sports in U.S. Ironically, Kwan never won an Olympic gold; her quest for Olympic gold was crushed twice by Sarah Hughes and Tara Lipinski in 1998 and 2002, respectively.