Figure skating is arguably the most popular competition at the Winter Olympics. And really, it gets a lot of attention at any time of the year when it comes to the World Cup and American fans of national competition.
Figure skaters are some of the most popular athletes in all sports, on and off the ice. In that sense, here’s an overview of the top Greatest Figure Skaters Of All Time – from singles to team competition – all the way to the glacier or ice rink.
Table of Contents
Top 10 Greatest Figure Skaters
1. Aljona Savchenko
2. Ulrich Salchow
The beginning of the 20th century was not much better than the Swedish Salchow. He won gold at the London Olympics in 1908 (when skating was held during the Summer Games), but his real claim to fame was a duel in the Men’s Ten World Championships. The latter is still the men’s world record and shared with the great Sonja Henie and Irina Rodnina.
3. Irina Rodnina
Probably the greatest pair skater in the history of the sport, Rodnina was a Soviet force from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Rodnina is the only skater to have won 10 consecutive World Championships (1969-78) and three consecutive Olympic golds (1972, ’76, and ’80) in doubles. Together with Alexei Ulanov and Alexander Zaitsev, Rodnina was the first skater to win Olympic gold with two different partners. Rodnina has found her second career as a Russian politician.
4. Evgeni Plushenko
Plushenko is not only the best male skater in Russian men’s history but also among the best in the world. He is a four-time Olympic medalist (second-best of all time), winning singles gold in 2006 and team gold in 14. Plushenko also brought home the 2002 and 10 Winter Olympics silverware. He is a seven-time European champion, a three-time world champion, and has even wandered, albeit quite unsuccessfully, into the politics of his home country.
5. Evgenia Medvedeva
Is it possible that a 20-year-old could be on this list? When you look at Medvedeva’s skating life, it’s easy to see why he’s worthy. The young Russian took home a couple of silver medals (singles, team) at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and he has already won two world championships (for the first time in a row by Michelle Kwan in 2000 and ’01) and a couple of European championships. Medvedeva has also released world-record results in a short program and free skating 13 times.
6. Michelle Kwan
Perhaps the greatest female skater in U.S. history, Kwan never won Olympic gold but won silver in 1998 and bronze in 2002. However, Kwan is a five-time world champion and her amazing nine national titles are up to date on U.S. history. Kwan has also done very well on ice through comments, testimonials, film assignments, and speech assignments – making him one of the most popular athletes in American sports.
7. Ekaterina Gordeeva/Sergei Grinkov
OK, this is the first time we’re taking the freedom to offer ice skating for two. In the realm of skating pairs, Gordeeva and Grinkov were the best – and most tragic. The 1994 gold medals in Lillehammer and the four-time world champions skated royally when Grinkov practically collapsed in November 1995 and died in a massive attack. She was only 28 years old and Gordeeva 24 years old, and she had a 3-year-old daughter.
8. Sonja Henie
Norway’s Henie was often regarded as the greatest figure skater in sports history — male or female — and won Olympic gold three times in the women’s singles (1928, ’32, and ’36) and a major 10 consecutive World Championships in 1927-36. These combined championships are mostly for women. When Henie turned to a professional skater, he entered the film world and starred in “One in a Million” (1936) and “Another Violin” (1939).
9. Yuzuru Hanyu
Some will argue that this Japanese wonder might be the greatest male singles skater ever to grace the ice. Not only has Hanyu won gold at the last two Winter Olympics (2014, ’18), but he’s twice placed first at the World Championships and has three silver medals to boot in that competition. Hanyu has set world records on 19 occasions. Did we mention he won’t turn 26 until December?
10. Scott Hamilton
Hamilton is not only one of the greatest skaters of all time, but also a true ambassador of the sport – and not just in the United States. Little Hamilton won his childhood illness and eventually won four consecutive national championships in the United States (1981-84) and four consecutive world championships. Of course, the highlight of Hamilton’s career became gold at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. He has also become one of the best-known and most respected skating commentators and analysts.