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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Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz set French Open semifinal showdown


Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will play in the French Open semifinals on Friday in the most anticipated match of the tournament.

Each man advanced with a quarterfinal win on Tuesday.

Djokovic, eyeing a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title, rallied past 11th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4. The Serb reached his 45th career major semifinal, one shy of Roger Federer‘s men’s record.

Later Tuesday, top seed Alcaraz crushed fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) to consolidate his status as the favorite in Friday’s showdown.

“This match, everyone wants to watch,” Alcaraz said. “I really wanted to play this match as well. I always say that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Alcaraz, who at last year’s U.S. Open became the first male teen to win a major since Rafael Nadal in 2005, is at this event the youngest man to be the top seed at a major since Boris Becker at 1987 Wimbledon.

The Djokovic-Alcaraz semifinal will produce the clear favorite for Sunday’s final given left-handed 14-time French Open champion Nadal is out this year with a hip injury and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev lost in the first round. Djokovic and Nadal share the record 22 men’s major titles.

Djokovic and Alcaraz met once, with Alcaraz winning last year on clay in Madrid 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5).

“[Alcaraz] brings a lot of intensity on the court,” Djokovic said, before breaking into a smile. “Reminds me of someone from his country that plays with a left hand.”

Alcaraz and Djokovic were set to be on opposite halves of the draw — and thus not able to meet until the final — until Medvedev won the last top-level clay event before the French Open to move ahead of Djokovic in the rankings. That meant Djokovic had a 50 percent chance to wind up in Alcaraz’s half, and that’s what the random draw spit out two weeks ago.

Earlier Tuesday in the first two women’s quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova advanced to face off in Thursday’s semifinals.

Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, swept Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 to complete her set of semifinals in all four Grand Slams. Sabalenka will take the No. 1 ranking from Iga Swiatek if Swiatek loses before the final, or if Sabalenka makes the final and Swiatek does not win the title.

Svitolina, a former world No. 3, returned to competition in April from childbirth.

Muchova took out 2021 French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-5, 6-2, to make her second major semifinal after the 2021 Australian Open.

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw