See Figure Skater Surya Bonaly Now, 24 Years After Her Last Olympics
The skater broke the rules and made Olympics history with her backflip.
If there's one thing Surya Bonaly is remembered for, it's her backflips. The French figure skater was able to perform backflips on ice, and in 1998, she became the only person to land a backflip on one blade during the Olympics—despite it being against the rules and even though she was injured. Bonaly participated in three Winter Olympics, and though she never medalled at the Games, she is still considered one of the greats from the sport, as the five-time European champion and winner of three silver medals in the World Figure Skating Championships.
Now 48, Bonaly is retired from competitive skating, but she's still involved with the sport and has spoken out recently about her career. Read on to find out about her life today.
Surya Bonaly remained involved in skating.
Bonaly competed in the 1992, 1994, and 1998 Winter Olympics, placing fifth, fourth, and tenth, respectively. "I mean, even many years after I'm like, 'Did I really finish fourth [at the Olympics]?" she told the Olympic Channel podcast in 2020. "But it is what it is."
Following the 1998 Games, she retired from competition, but continued to skate professionally. "I never really quit skating. I'm still performing all over the world," she told The Root in 2014. "I've been doing shows with champion Evgeni Plushenko for years. Now I'm preparing to go on a big tour in Europe for Holiday on Ice. It's a three-month show I'm proud to star in even though I'm getting old. I still follow my passion!"
She's now a coach.
Bonaly became an American citizen in 2004 and lives in Las Vegas. There, she coaches skating at the Las Vegas Ice Center.
"I've been in Las Vegas since end of 1999," she told CY Interview in 2020. "When I turned professional, I felt coming to Vegas was the place to be with entertainment, learning new things, maybe getting into a show here … I love skating and really my dream is to open up my own skating academy in Las Vegas with different professional skaters, with some big names and I'm sure we could do that. We just need time and you know, power from some people."
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Bonaly was featured in a Netflix series.
Bonaly was the focus of an episode of the 2019 Netflix docuseries Losers about athletes and their experiences with defeats. The installment covered Bonaly facing racism in a primarily white sport and her decision to do a backflip at the Olympics, even though it was not allowed.
Speaking of her Olympic backflip in the interview with The Root, Bonaly said, "That was my last Olympics, and pretty much my last competition ever. I was known for the backflip in exhibitions, not in competition, but I wanted to leave a trademark. If someone else did it later in a competition, I would have been pissed because I was kind of the one who created it, so now it's in everyone's memory!"
Bonaly has also opened up about being one of few Black skaters, and how she doesn't know how much racism may have affected her career. She told the Olympic Channel podcast, "If I would have been white, maybe I would have my title long ago… but who knows?"
She hopes she inspires other skaters.
Bonaly told The Root that she thinks one of the reasons there haven't been a lot of Black skaters is because they think "skating [and other winter sports] are just for whites." She continued, "I hope I opened doors to change that. I was competing on the national team [in France] for 12 years, and there are [kids] who watched me for years and years performing while they were small. They see it was possible for me, so hopefully they think, 'Why not try it?'"