Surya Bonaly is a French-American professional figure skater. She is famous for doing a backflip on the ice and landing it on one foot. A backflip is an illegal figure skating move, but Surya Bonaly did that move in the 1998 Olympics since she knew she couldn’t medal, but she wanted to be remembered. Since then, Surya’s backflip on the ice is considered her trademark move. This is a short video clip showing Surya Bonaly doing that trademark backflip.

Bonaly was born in Nice, France in 1973 and adopted by Suzanne Bonaly, a physical education teacher, and her husband Georges, an architect who worked for the government. Bonaly went on to become a nine-time French National Figure Skating Champion (1989 – 1997) and won the European Figure Skating Championships five times (1991 – 1995). She was a three-time silver medalist at the World Figure Skating Championships (1993 – 1995), but she never managed to win a world title, despite her strong jumping ability. Nor did she ever win a medal in the Winter Olympics, placing 5th in 1992 in Albertville, 4th in 1994 at Lillehammer, and 10th in 1998 at Nagano. Bonaly took the Athlete’s Oath ( at the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Formerly a competitive gymnast, Bonaly is famous for her backflip landed on only one blade; she is considered the only skater in the world capable of this move. She is also known for having attempted and apparently landed a quadruple toe loop jump at the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships – the first and only female skater to have done so. Bonaly was never credited with successfully landing the jump by the International Skating Union.

She competed in the 1994 World Figure Skating Championships in Chiba, Japan. With Nancy Kerrigan, Oksana Baiul and Chen Lu not competing, it was an open field for the championship. Bonaly skated a clean performance but, according to the judges, home country favorite Yuka Sato had a better skate. Bonaly thought she had been robbed and defiantly stood beside the medals platform rather than on it. Although she was coaxed into standing on the platform, Bonaly took off her silver medal after it was presented to her and was immediately booed by the crowd. After the medals presentation, a crying Bonaly was greeted by reporters. Her only statement: “I’m just not lucky.” She believed she’d been robbed of gold in 1993 as well, as she thought she should have beaten Oksana Baiul at the ’93 World Championship competition.[citation needed] (Baiul narrowly won the world title, having been outjumped and outspun by Bonaly but having received higher artistic impression scores.)

In May 1996, Bonaly suffered a very serious injury, rupturing her achilles tendon, that caused her to miss much of the following season. Bonaly resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. and became an American citizen in June 2004. She toured with the Champions on Ice skating show for several years until they went out of business after the 2007 season. Bonaly also recently completed shows in Russia with Evgeni Plushenko and was a guest skater at Ice Theatre of New York’s December 2008 gala in NYC where she successfully performed her signature backflip.


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  1. Surya Bonaly was robbed. Not once, not twice but at least three times that I can see.

  2. I also agree, never once did those in the skating profession feel she was ‘worthy’ of even one Olympic Metal, because they felt she was too snotty acting, but I get the feeling nothing could have been further from the truth, as sad to say Tonya Harding was treated almost the exact same way when she got started (and progressed) in the sport. Well and truly robbed.

  3. Well I always appreciated and admired Surya Bonaly’s skating achievements, and if ANYBODY could have pulled off a quad, it would have been Surya. It was just her fate to not have the long lean anorexic Eastern European body type that the Eastern European judges found so appealing, if you know what I mean. She was muscular and she was DARK, so she entered that sport with strikes against her from the get-go. But to my mind she is still one of the best skaters ever.

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