Quads are coming to Olympic women’s figure skating, but Surya Bonaly started it all

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On Feb. 7, a woman will almost certainly land a quadruple jump in Olympic figure skating competition for the first time. But she will not be the first woman to attempt a quad at the Olympics.

That honor belongs to Surya Bonaly.

The star French skater of the 1990s is known by many for performing a back flip at the 1998 Nagano Games.

But Bonaly also spent much of her career working on a four-revolution jump, which she deemed more difficult than flipping backward and landing on one skate blade.

It’s been 30 years since she landed an under-rotated — and thus, not ratified — quad attempt at the Albertville Games. No other woman landed one at an Olympics since. It’s believed only one other woman bid to try one at the Games — Japan’s Miki Ando in 2006, though she fell, and it was judged a triple.

It’s outlawed in women’s short programs but allowed in the free skate.

Men, allowed to do them in both programs, landed quads at the Olympics in 1998 (then allowed in the free skate only), 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Bonaly, now 48 and a coach in Las Vegas, is surprised it took this long for a (mostly Russian) quad revolution in women’s skating.

“It’s good, that finally, after 30 years, somebody says, hey, we need to step it up and upgrade,” she said. “We cannot just stay forever and do the triples, the same jump over and over for the rest of eternity.”

Bonaly credited her ability to perform triple jumps with ease to her gymnastics background. She won a 1986 World Trampoline Championships silver medal for France in team tumbling at age 12. She began working on a quad in practice in 1989 after winning the first of her nine consecutive national figure skating titles.

“I was really ahead of my time,” she said. “Triple, I could do that with my eyes closed. I say, hey, with extra speed, with extra height, I could do quadruple if I work on it.”

Bonaly said she landed clean quads in practice, but never fully rotated one in competition. She tried a quad toe loop or quad Salchow in competition at least 13 times from 1990-96, according to her Wikipedia page, though she has no idea the exact number.

“I wanted to do it, not because I wanted to be the first woman to do it, but just because I know that women don’t have to just be pretty and try to do a nice spiral,” she said, noting the artistic side of skating. “We definitely can mix both aspects of being pretty and be tough and be able to jump.”

In 1991, Bonaly was so convinced she landed a clean quad at the world championships that she threw her arms in the air in excitement. She then tripped and (her description) belly flopped on the ice.

In 1992, Bonaly said she hit quads in practice in Albertville for the Olympics but that her coach, Didier Gailhaguet, told her not to try one in the free skate.

She did so anyway, but it was “cheated by half a turn,” 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton said on the CBS broadcast. Bonaly erred on later triple jumps in her program and dropped from third place after the short program to fifth.

“It turned a lot of heads,” Hamilton said recently of her quad quest. “She was trying, but she was always a little short of rotation.”

As the years went on, Bonaly felt like her work on the quad was not appreciated as she didn’t nail it in competition.

“I almost felt ashamed doing it,” she said. “Nobody was happy for me trying it. … Nobody felt like I was a better skater for it.”

While more men learned the quad as the 1990s went on, it didn’t catch on in women’s skating. Though Bonaly wasn’t the only one working on it.

“I would do it in practice, and the falls that I would take were unlike any I’ve ever experienced when I was skating,” 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski said in a recent Netflix documentary on Bonaly’s career.

At 2001 Skate America, Sasha Cohen landed quads in practice and in her free skate warm-up but aborted her attempt in her competition program. In 2002, Ando landed a quad Salchow at the Junior Grand Prix Final, becoming the first woman to do so in any event.

It took another 15 years before Aleksandra Trusova, then 13, became the second woman to land a quad. That happened one month after the PyeongChang Olympics and opened the floodgates in Russia.

Last month, Trusova was part of a historic free skate at the Russian Championships. Seven women between the ages of 14 and 17 combined to attempt 18 quads and land 11.

Three of them — Kamila Valiyeva, Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova — make up the Russian Olympic women’s team and are favored to sweep the medals in Beijing. They all train at the same Russian skating school headed by Eteri Tutberidze, who coached the 2018 Olympic gold and silver medalists.

Hamilton said a change in the way women learn jumps from a young age helped bring the proliferation of quads.

“A lot of the women [in the past] really hadn’t built their jumping technique to accommodate the next rotation,” he said. “Back in those earlier days, it was up and [then pull your body] in. Now, it’s up and in at the same time. So they’re not wasting all that time of getting up in the air first, before they start rotating.”

Bonaly noted that today’s skaters have assistance that she didn’t three decades ago to ease the physical toll of training quads. That includes access to regular massages, off-ice harnesses to jump in and butt pads to cushion the landing of falls.

“It’s a lot of pain you don’t feel at first, but you know it comes later,” said Bonaly, a three-time Olympian (fourth in 1994) and three-time world silver medalist. She had two hip surgeries after her competitive career.

She saw a quad in person for the first time in 2019. Alysa Liu, then 14, landed one at the Aurora Games, a non-sanctioned event.

“I was like, that’s definitely dope,” Bonaly said. A week later, Liu became the first American woman to land a quad in sanctioned competition.

Bonaly was also at this season’s Skate America, where Trusova landed a quad Lutz to open her free skate. More than 10 women have now landed a clean quad, but the famous Frenchwoman is not one of them.

“I do regret that,” Bonaly said, “because, yeah, it was my thing.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misreported the date of the likely first Olympic women’s quad. It should happen Feb. 7 during the team competition before the singles free skate on Feb. 15.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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