20 Famous Female Ice Skaters Who Won Olympic Medals
Female skaters have long fascinated audiences with a mix of grace, power, and, sometimes, drama, as was the case with Nancy Kerrigan’s assault in 1994, just before she won a silver medal at the Olympics. Here’s a list of the most famous female Olympic skaters, beginning with Russian Alina Zagitova and ending with Norwegian Sonja Henie:
Alina Zagitova, skating for the Olympic Athletes from Russia, took the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 2021 Winter Olympics. She became the second youngest women’s champion in history, just a month behind American Tara Lipinski, who won in 1998.
Adelina Sotnikova, 17, became the first Russian woman to win gold in Olympic figure skating in a surprise performance in 2014 that edged defending champion Kim Yuna of the Republic of Korea into second. Sotnikova previously had won multiple medals in the European championships, Grand Prix series, and Russian championships.
Kim Yuna of South Korea became the 2010 Olympic figure skating champion. She was the first from her country to take gold in figure skating.
2006 Olympic figure skating champion Shizuka Arakawa was the first Japanese woman to win gold in the sport. Arakawa was 24 when she took the title, making her the oldest women’s Olympic figure skating champion since 1908 champion Florence “Madge” Cave Syers, who won at 27.
American Sarah Hughes unexpectedly won the gold medal in figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in a historic upset of the favorite, Michelle Kwan.
In 1998, American Tara Lipinski won the Olympic gold medal in figure skating at 15, the youngest women’s Olympic gold medalist in figure skating history.
Michelle Kwan, an Olympic medalist in 1998 and 2002, a five-time world champion, and a nine-time U.S. champion, is a figure skating legend and the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history.
Russian figure skater Oksana Baiul was only 16 when she won Olympic gold in 1994. Baiul overcame many obstacles, including becoming an orphan at 13, before winning the title.
Just before the 1994 Olympics, American Tonya Harding had allegedly been part of the conspiracy to injure Nancy Kerrigan, which, ironically, increased the popularity of figure skating. Kerrigan won silver in 1994, following her bronze medal in 1992.
Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic champion, was the first American woman to win Olympics gold in figure skating since 1976. In 1989, she became the first woman in 35 years to win two medals, one in singles and one in pairs, at the U.S. nationals.
Japanese figure skating legend Midori Ito won the 1989 World Figure Skating Championships and the 1992 Olympic figure skating silver medal. In addition to being the first woman to land the triple axel jump in competition, in 1992 she made history by becoming the first woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics.
At the 1988 Winter Olympics, Canadian figure skater Elizabeth Manley skated the performance of her life. She almost won Olympic gold but was delighted with her silver medal. After winning silver, Manley became a Canadian celebrity.
Katarina Witt, the 1984 and 1988 Olympic figure skating champion, is one of the most successful figure skaters in history. The charismatic German skater was the first woman to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in singles figure skating since Sonja Henie in 1936.
Debi Thomas is the only African-American who ever won a medal in the Olympics in figure skating. She took the bronze at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, which took place in Calgary, Canada.
Dorothy Hamill was considered “America’s sweetheart.” After winning Olympic gold in 1976, Hamill became the most sought-after skater for commercial endorsements in figure skating history.
American Janet Lynn is considered one of the best free skaters of all time. She won an Olympic bronze medal in 1972 and was the U.S. National figure skating champion from 1969 through 1973.
Peggy Fleming was the 1968 Olympic figure skating champion. She won the title in Grenoble, France, earning America’s only gold medal at that Olympics. Fleming became a television figure skating commentator.
American Carol Heiss won the 1960 Olympics gold medal in women’s figure skating, following her silver medal earned at the 1956 Olympics. When she won in 1960, all nine judges awarded her first place.
Barbara Ann Scott
Barbara Ann Scott was the first Canadian to win a gold medal in Olympic figure skating, taking the top prize in 1948. The year before she had become the first citizen of a country outside Europe to win a world championship in skating.
Sonja Henie of Norway won the Olympic figure skating championship in 1928, 1932, and 1936. She is a figure skating legend and is also considered the first ice skating celebrity. She was known for bringing ballet, white skates, and short skating dresses to the ice.