Surya Bonaly Is The Only Olympic Figure Skater To Land A Backflip On One Blade

Technically, Bonaly’s backflip, because it was landed on one foot, could have been allowed in Olympic competition. True to form, although the judges could have declared her jump legitimate, they maintained their no-backflip stance, and Bonaly was heavily penalized. She finished in 10th place. But it arguably doesn’t matter. The message was clear: Bonaly, with or without any medals, was one of the best skaters of her time, and had executed a jump so difficult, so dangerous, and so illegal that nobody, male or female, has landed anything similar at an Olympic-level competition since.

The Revolutionary Legacy of Surya Bonaly, A Back-Flipping Figure Skater –

Surya Bonaly was a former French competitive figure skater with some serious Black Girl Magic. Bonaly is a three-time World silver medalist (1993–1995), a five-time European champion (1991–1995), the 1991 World Junior Champion, and a nine-time French national champion (1989–1997).

According to Face2Face Africa News, “Bonaly is the only Olympic figure skater to land a backflip on only one blade; she performed it at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. It was the last time a black woman was a serious contender for an Olympic medal in figure skating. At the 1998 winter Olympics while having a score that was too low to win she decided to make history by executing a banned jump, a backwards somersault landing on one foot, previously executed by only three men who landed on both feet yet Bonaly did the somersault landing on one foot. The move is now called ‘The Bonaly’.

The backwards somersault was illegal with the excuse that all jumps in order to be judged should finish on one only somersault, it is necessary to land on both feet. When Surya landed, she essentially made it legal, as she was able to do it on one foot only. The jump was named after her and it consecrated her to the history of ice skating.”

After the 1994 World Championships when Bonally was asked why she refused to join the other medalist on the podium and took off her silver medal she explained, “It happened too much. Also, because I was a woman. I think if I would have been a man and did the same thing, it would have been OK, because, ‘He’s a guy, he’s a dude.’ Because a woman was supposed to be dressed cute and shut up and just accept it. And, at this point, I’m like, ‘I don’t care what kind of sex I belong to, I need to show that should not happen anymore.'”

Photo: Surya Bonaly

Bonaly goes on to say, “It was nothing against that skater or against the country. I love Japan and I performed many years after that. And Yuka Sato is a great skater. Nothing against her. She’s a good friend of mine. I think sometimes you have to stop and just say, ‘Guys, please, try to be fair.’ And sport is a beautiful thing. We are not trying to do any politics. That’s why we do sports, because it’s some kind of freedoms that we can have and we can express ourselves.”

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