Surya Bonaly, the Only Figure Skater to Land the Flip on One Blade

Surya Bonaly by Samantha Hahn
Illustration of Surya Bonaly by Samantha Hahn

Surya Bonaly (1973–)

French-American figure skater Surya Bonaly repeatedly defied the norms of body and race in the sport. She not only mastered the backflip, she’s the only figure skater, male or female, to land the flip on one blade. She performed the move during her last Olympic competition, knowing she wasn’t a top performer at the event due to an injury and that the jump wouldn’t impact her chances at a medal. And, though she failed to land the jump in competition, she was the first female to attempt a quadruple jump, just one year after the first officially recognized jump by a male skater. She also remains one of the few black figure skaters to reach top-level success in the field—a field in which she continued to perform into her 40s.

Samantha Hahn is a New York-based illustrator and author. With a focus on exploring the female experience, her ethereal watercolor paintings have been exhibited around the world and featured in publications from The Paris Review to Vogue Japan. She has published two books, “Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines” and “A Mother is a Story: A Celebration of Motherhood.”

This feature originally appeared in the Body issue. Find more inspiring stories from the Body issue here or check out our Women in History section.

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