Are there black male figure skaters

Salto Principessa

Etrit Hasler on the trail of the French figure skater Surya Bonaly

From Etrit Hasler

The fact that it is fundamentally more difficult for black athletes in sport is not exactly news - and no, basketball and athletics alone are not enough to correct the facts. For example, that it is almost impossible for black athletes to be successful in winter sports. There are maybe a few dozen black players in the NHL ice hockey league, most of them Canadians, but black skiers, curlers? Nothing. A total of 19 black athletes traveled to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi - out of a total of 2850. 14 of them were part of various bob teams and, yes, including the Jamaican team known from the Disney kitsch “Cool Runnings”.

One of the most sensational figures in figure skating was and is the black French woman Surya Bonaly, who in her professional career achieved five French and five European championship titles (all of them in one piece) and a total of three vice world championship titles. However, it was never enough for higher ordinations. So she missed victory at the 1994 World Championships in Japan with a 5-4 casting vote by the jury after she was tied with the big favorite Yuka Sato in the scores. Bonaly was so disappointed that she refused to step onto the podium, for which she was booed by the audience.

Surya Bonaly was best known for being one of the most athletic figure skaters - which, however, was repeatedly interpreted as a disadvantage. She regularly received low style marks from the judges - as the former US team coach Frank Carroll once put it: "She just didn't look like an ice princess." Or: she was too strong, too sporty, too little graceful. Commentator Sandra Bezic once remarked that Surya Bonaly stepped on the runners with so much force that you could hear the scratching in the arena - which just doesn't go well with the sport.

Whether her skin color also played a role in these judgments can only be guessed at - and she herself only commented cautiously on it. In a short documentary on the US sports broadcaster ESPN, she said earlier this year: “I don't know if it made my skin color heavier, but it made me stronger. I knew that I just had to be better, then there would be no choice but to accept me for who I am. " She mainly gave her answers on the ice: When she was so far behind after the first round at her third and final Olympic Games in Nagano in 1998 that she no longer had a chance for a medal, she briefly built a maneuver into her performance that there had never been anything like this in figure skating: a backflip.

Perhaps it has to be said that only those jumps in figure skating are allowed that can be landed on a runner. The backflip was forbidden until then because no one (not even a male figure skater) had ever come up with the crazy idea of ​​landing it on just one shoe. Except Bonaly. She had practiced the somersault several times in the past - in 1992 it had already been banned during training. But at her farewell gala she did not want to let him be taken from her. The judges were so amazed that they had to search for justifications for several minutes in order not to have to include the jump in the rating - ultimately they earned a point deduction for the most spectacular jump in figure skating history.

Shortly thereafter, she ended her competitive career - and appeared in various figure art shows until 2015. There she finally found an audience that appreciated her sporting highs and rewarded them with applause instead of deducting points.

Etrit Hasler dedicates this text to a Swiss author who is regularly reduced to her skin color and hopes that she will continue to do her verbal backflips - no matter what people think of it.

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