Seventeen-year-old Rachael Flatt and 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu are the present and the future of U.S. figure skating. Based on their successes in Vancouver and beyond, they have will have to opportunity to join a distinguished group of female athletes.
Ladies figure skating has long been a flagship event in the Winter Olympic program, and the Americans has always had great affection for their skaters. How loved are they? In 1993, the Associated Press cited a survey that discovered that Dorothy Hamill was America's most popular athlete, and she hadn't appeared in Olympic competition since 1976. Others athletes that she trumped on that list include Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana.
A stirring Olympic performance on the ice can capture the headlines at any Games because of the popularity of the sport and it's competitors. Which made us wonder, as we're in the midst of the ladies figure skating program, who is the greatest American ladies figure skater of all-time?
This may be a difficult exercise because two former Olympic champions may likely precede some people: Tenley Albright (1956) and Carol Heiss (1960). Heiss dominated the sport like few others, winning the World Championships each year from 1957-1960.
Others, like Peggy Fleming and Hamill, transcended their success on the ice and reached iconic status - and we aren't necessarily referring to a hairstyle. Fleming skated for four different American presidents and Hamill popularized the Ice Capades.
In the last twenty years, the U.S. has yielded three gold medalists. Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold in 1992 with dazzling artistry and combination jumps. Underdogs Tara Lipinski, in Nagano, and Sarah Hughes, in Salt Lake, shocked the skating world in consecutive Games.
While being a gold medalist cements a legacy, does it prevent those who haven't won the ultimate title from being considered among the greatest? It's hard to imagine a debate without Michelle Kwan, a five-time World Champion, who failed to win Olympic gold, twice losing out to American teammates. And then, of course, there's Sasha Cohen, silver medalist from Torino.
So let the debate begin. Who is the greatest American ladies figure skater of all-time? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.