Surya Bonaly, world renowned French skater whose trademark move is her backflip, where she only lands on one blade in order to keep the move legal. She’s amazing!
it always amuses me when I remember the ice skating community banned this phenomanal move because a black person literally had raised the bar and white people were too bitter to do better so they banned a move that would add progress to the sport.
and then she raised the bar again
someone make this into a movie. fuck it, i’ll do it
ok ok so every time this post shows up on my dash, i get a little miffed because it presents this narrative that isn’t consistent with reality. it misrepresents surya’s career. first, there seems to be this implication that the isu banned the backflip because surya was the first skater to perform the backflip, and they didn’t like that because she’s black.
i mean, surya did not pioneer the backflip. she herself stated that her coach suggested that she start doing backflips on ice because of a skater named norbert schramm who was performing them in europe at the time. scott cramer pulled off 10,032 backflips over the course of his career, and he retired seven years before surya even began competing. surya is THE FIRST AND ONLY skater in history to perform a backflip and land on one skate in competition, but the most important part of it wasn’t the feat itself but WHY SHE DID IT.
and ok, the first person to successfully do a backflip on ice was skippy baxter in an ice show in the 1940s. there has only been one legal backflip performed in actual competition by terry kubicka in 1976. immediately after he pulled it off, the isu banned the move from competitions. please note that yes, terry kubicka was a white male figure skater. and for context, surya was born in 1973. i sincerely doubt that the isu was banning the backflip because of a THREE-YEAR-OLD.
the isu had very good non-racism related reasons for banning the backflip because well, figure skating is fucking hard. i think we frequently underestimate just how difficult it is because of how easy they make it look. i mean top figure skaters are still working on consistently landing quad jumps in competition. it’s so easy to flub a jump and get injured, and it’s super common for skaters to spend huge chunks of the off season not training because they’ve injured themselves.
SO DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA JUST HOW FUCKING DANGEROUS IT WOULD BE IF BACKFLIPS WERE ALLOWED IN COMPETITIVE SKATING???? if you mess this move up, you’re not just going to break an ankle or fuck up your muscles, you’d break your neck on the ice. you could FUCKING DIE. and this is by no means the first or last move to get banned by the isu for being too dangerous. (the one that comes to mind is the head banger death spiral because seriously what a name).
the reason why this is just so upsetting to me is because i feel like you guys are really simplifying surya’s narrative. yes, surya was a FUCKING BADASS. LIKE HER FIRST SEASON IN SENIOR COMPETITIONS, SHE LANDED A BACKFLIP DURING PRACTICE RIGHT IN FRONT OF MIDORI ITO, THE FAVORITE FOR THE 1992 OLYMPICS. IN THE SAME COMPETITION, SHE BECAME THE ONLY WOMAN TO EVER ATTEMPT A QUAD TOE LOOP IN COMPETITION, and the first time anyone had even successfully pulled that off was a mere three years earlier.
and yes, surya had to deal with A LOT of racism. because of her skin color and her build and her athleticism and her style, she didn’t fit into the “ice princess”. they pegged her as a rebel, and they treated her as such. the judges were constantly nitpicking her skating style and criticizing her artistry because she wasn’t this light and graceful skater that they thought female figure skaters should be. (black ballerinas suffer from the same plight). she was constantly pushing the boundaries, but she consistently got lower scores than her white counterparts. and despite that, she was A THREE-TIME WORLD SILVER MEDALIST, A FIVE-TIME EUROPEAN CHAMPION, AND A NINE-TIME FRENCH NATIONAL CHAMPION.
in the 1994 world championships, surya’s final score tied for first place with yuka sato’s. it came down to a tiebreaker vote, and the judges picked yuka because she fit in better with the ice princess image. surya knew why she the judges didnt pick her. during the awards ceremony, she refused to step onto the medals podium and took off the silver medal. she was crying, and the crowd was booing at her.
the 1998 olympics was going to be surya’s last hurrah. she knew that the 97-98 season would be her last. when the judges gave her a low score on her short program for surprise surprise racist reasons, she knew that there was no way that she could win.
so surya decided to make a point.
she hadn’t planned to do this from the start because she knew that the move was illegal and doing it could get her disqualified, but after seeing her short program score, surya basically on the spot decided to replace the triple in her free skate with the backflip landing on one skate. she hadn’t been training for this move specifically, she just pulled it off right then and there on the olympic stage. and while the backflip was banned for being too dangerous, another reason for it to be banned was because the skater would land on both skates, and jumps are always landed with one skate.
surya pulling off this banned move was basically her last FUCK YOU to the judges because they’d been screwing her over since the start of her career. she was challenging them by making a previously illegal move technically legal. the judges didn’t disqualify her, but they didn’t accept the move as legal either, and they deducted points from her score, so surya placed 10th overall. BUT THAT DIDNT MATTER. when surya finished her program, she turned her back on the judges (a huge no-no because it is highly disrespectful) because she didn’t care about their opinion at this point. SHE’D MADE HISTORY. their decision wouldn’t change that.
(surya performs the backflip at 3:28)
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