As the 2022 Winter Olympics kicked off in Beijing, I am happily lacking sleep to catch up with Figure Skating events which are live at midnights and early mornings in the UK due to the time difference.
Is it only Torvill and Dean?
During the beautiful Opening Ceremony, they presented a CG image of an icy screen displaying the years and places of past Winter Olympics games. It was kind of predictable that the BBC commentator mentioned the names of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, when the screen showed Sarajevo 1984 where they won the most memorable gold medal in British sports history with the 9 sixes of artistic impression scores.
Time passed, and as of 2022 Figure Skating stars are currently concentrated in Japan, USA and Russia. In the UK, in contrast, Figure Skating remains a synonym to Torvill and Dean, whose achievement of 37 years ago is still strongly imprinted in many people’s memories.
As much as we admire the legendary ice dancers, however, this emphasis on them almost makes us overlook other equally worth-mentioning British figure skaters in history. Here, I’d like to shed light on two other gold medalists from the past Team GB: Robin Cousins and John Curry.
The boy from Bristol, who was attracted to the art of skating at the age of 6, became the gold medalist in men’s singles at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Admiring Gene Kelly as his idol, his love for performing led him to choose figure skating which, according to Cousins, has aspects of dance, gymnastics and ballet to fulfil his artistic urge. He was trained in both singles and ice dance, but his career bloomed more in singles.
Robin Cousins’ Olympics Figure Skating Memories | Moment in Time
During his competitive career he went through several operations, including both knee surgeries respectively, which preceded his 1980 Olympic participation. Considering that such injuries and operations could be life-threatening to athletes, he recovered and showed off strength as well as elegance, grace and musicality in the Olympic ice rink:
1980 Winter Olympics Long Program - Robin Cousins
As of now, we’re all used to watching figure skating from an artistic point of view, as well as its athletic side. People often discuss if figure skating should be an art or a sport. Before John Curry, who won the gold medal in the 1976 Innsbruck, men’s skate tended to emphasise on the sporty side and male figure skaters did not quite have to express their elegance.
Curry started figure skating at the age of 8 in Birmingham, as a compromise with his father who opposed his aspiration to become a dancer. To the father, dancing wasn’t an activity for boys, but he regarded skating comparatively more acceptable.
With his initial motivation, there was no wonder why Curry brought ballet and modern dance into skating. His strong body control skills were based on ballet, which also helped him to excel at artistic and presentation aspects. His artistry even inspired ballet professionals, including a renowned choreographer Kenneth Macmillan from the Royal Ballet, who created a piece for Curry’s Theatre of Skating company.
John Curry Figure Skating Gold | Innsbruck 1976 Medal Moments
His life has been documented in a film ‘The Ice King’ (2018):
The Ice King - Official Trailer
When Curry won the gold medal, young Robin Cousins, a first-time Olympic athlete in the same game, was inspired to picture himself in the same scenery. 4 years later, he followed the same footsteps to inspire young Torvill and Dean, who were also decorated with the golden colour in the consecutive Olympic games.
The history of Figure Skating has been woven with such a chain of inspirations, beyond categories and beyond nationalities. Great skaters inspire the next generations, motivate their hard work and aspire to their further progress in the art. In Beijing 2022, Team GB participates in the categories of lady’s single and ice dance. Whoever you support, our emotions will be elicited through the once-in-a-lifetime performances by each skater, experienced as well as new. When every skater lives the moment to the full, we as viewers will also be inspired by their sportsmanship and artistry.
Cooling down in sports excitement - Torvill and Dean’s lifetime achievement award on ice (11th July 2021)