John Curry

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John Curry
Curry at the 1976 Olympics
Full nameJohn Anthony Curry
Born(1949-09-09)9 September 1949
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England[1]
Died15 April 1994(1994-04-15) (aged 44)
Binton, Warwickshire, England
Height180 cm (5 ft 11 in)[1]
Figure skating career
Country Great Britain
Skating clubQueens Ice Dance Club, London[1]
Medal record
Men's figure skating
Representing  Great Britain
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1976 Innsbruck Singles
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1976 Gothenburg Singles
Bronze medal – third place 1975 Colorado Springs Singles
European Championships
Gold medal – first place 1976 Geneva Singles
Silver medal – second place 1975 Copenhagen Singles
Bronze medal – third place 1974 Zagreb Singles

John Anthony Curry, OBE (9 September 1949 – 15 April 1994)[2] was a British figure skater. He was the 1976 European, World, and Olympic Champion. He was noted for combining ballet and modern dance influences into his skating.

Early life[edit]

Curry was born on 9 September 1949 in Birmingham, England. He had two older brothers.[2] He was educated at Solihull School, a private school in the West Midlands and prior to this, at St Andrews, an independent boarding school in Somerset.[3] As a child, Curry wanted to become a dancer, but his father disapproved of dance as an activity for boys.[2][4] As a compromise, in 1957, he began to take figure skating lessons[5] under the guidance of Ken Vickers at the Summerhill Road rink in Birmingham.[2]

Skating career[edit]

After his father died from suicide when John was 16,[6] he moved to London to study with Arnold Gerschwiler, who coached him to his first British title in 1971. In 1972 Curry found an American sponsor who enabled him to study in the United States with Gus Lussi and Carlo Fassi.[1] At the age of 18 he added ballet lessons to his training.[7]

Competitive career[edit]

Fassi coached Curry to European, World, and Olympic titles in 1976.[1] He also won the British championships that year, giving him the coveted Grand Slam in figure skating with his four major titles in 1976.[8] In the same year he was the flag bearer at the Winter Olympics for Great Britain[9] and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1976.[10] He was the first male figure skater from Great Britain to win Olympic gold.

As an amateur competitor, Curry was noted for his ballet-like posture and extension, and his superb body control. Along with Canadian skater Toller Cranston, Curry was responsible for bringing the artistic and presentation aspects of men's figure skating to a new level. At the peak of his competitive career, Curry was also accomplished both at compulsory figures and the athletic (jumping) aspects of free skating.

During his 1976 Olympic free skate, using music from the ballet Don Quixote, he successfully landed a triple toe loop, a triple Salchow and a triple loop jump.[7][11][12] His performance is known to have garnered the highest score ever given during the era of the 6.0 scoring in figure skating.[13] He earned 105.9 points out of a possible 108 points from a panel of 9 international judges.[14] Only the judges from Canada and the Soviet Union did not place him first.[8] The judges' decisions are noteworthy because the silver medallist was Vladimir Kovalev of USSR and the bronze medallist was Toller Cranston of Canada.[15] The programme, with its formal ballet positions and "measured restraint",[7] was also known as one of Curry's most memorable performances. Two years earlier, he used Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, which was called "a new, more eccentric look to his skating".[7]

His skating was unusual in that his jumps were performed counter-clockwise but most of his spins (except flying spins) were performed clockwise. In his 1978 biography, Curry is clear that if he were to do it over, his choice would have been in favour of ballet due to its highly defined structure which was a basis for his ability to jump and spin in either direction thanks to his command of a true center line understanding.[citation needed]

Curry's skating was characterized by strict attention to detail and clean, classical lines. As figure skater and writer Ellyn Kestnbaum states, he used his training in ballet to portray integrity of movement rooted in both dance and skating techniques.[7]

Professional career[edit]

Following the 1976 World Championships, Curry turned professional and founded a touring skating company along the same lines as a traditional dance company.[16] Besides choreographing routines for the company, Curry commissioned works from such noted dance choreographers as Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Peter Martins and Twyla Tharp. Curry was reportedly a difficult person to get along with, and a dispute with the business managers of his company forced it to suspend operations in the mid-1980s. After that, Curry performed only rarely in public.[citation needed]

Curry's Broadway theatre credits include Icedancing (1978)[17] as a performer[18] and director and the 1980 revival of Brigadoon as an actor and the Roundabout Theatre 1989 revival of Privates on Parade as an actor.

Personal life[edit]

It is speculated that Curry was outed as gay by a German tabloid newspaper, Bild-Zeitung.[19] before the March 1976 World Championships. He was competing in Gothenburg as Britain's (and the world's) first openly gay high-profile sportsperson. The revelation had occurred in February 1976, when John Vinocur, a reporter from the Associated Press, interviewed him in the days prior to his Olympic victory. His report,[20] which included quotes from Curry that were candid about his sexuality, was published 24 hours after the victory made headline news. Curry confirmed he was gay at a press conference in Innsbruck the same evening.[21] It caused a brief scandal in Europe at the time, but Curry's sexual orientation was generally ignored by the press and public for many years afterwards.[22][23][24]

In 1987, Curry was diagnosed with HIV, and in 1991 with AIDS. In October 1992, he gave an interview to a newspaper in which he spoke about both his disease and his sexual orientation.[25] He spent the last years of his life with his mother. He died of an AIDS-related heart attack on 15 April 1994 in Binton, Warwickshire, aged 44.[26] In line with his own wishes,[27] Curry had a humanist funeral.[27] A humanist memorial service took place later that year at Conway Hall Ethical Society, London.[28]

Donald Spoto's authorised biography of actor Alan Bates stated that Curry and Bates had a two-year affair and that Curry died in Bates's arms.[29][unreliable source?]

In 2018, a documentary on Curry's life and career, The Ice King, was released by Dogwoof Pictures.[30][5]


Season Short programme Free skating Exhibition


Event 1969–70 1970–71 1971–72 1972–73 1973–74 1974–75 1975–76
Winter Olympics 10th 1st
World Champ. 14th 9th 4th 7th 3rd 1st
European Champ. 12th 7th 5th 4th 3rd 2nd 1st
St. Gervais 1st
British Champ. 2nd 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "John Curry". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Bird, Dennis L. (16 April 1994). "Obituary: John Curry". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  3. ^ Jones, Bill (2015). Alone. The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry. Bloomsbury. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-4088-5356-6.
  4. ^ Young, Graham (15 August 2014). "The extraordinary rise and fall of Birmingham's Olympic champion ice skater". BusinessLive. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b Ide, Wendy (25 February 2018). "The Ice King review – finely balanced John Curry documentary". The Observer. Retrieved 7 November 2023.
  6. ^ Goodwin, Daisy (27 July 2014). "Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry by Bill Jones". The Sunday Times.
  7. ^ a b c d e Kestnbaum, Ellyn (2003). Culture on Ice: Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning. Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan Publishing Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-8195-6641-1.
  8. ^ a b "John Curry". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 11 April 2019. Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  9. ^ Great Britain.
  10. ^ "Unearthed ode to John Curry".
  11. ^ Stevenson, Sandra (12 February 2010). "From the archive: Curry hits the gold standard Originally published on 12 February 1976". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Video 1976 Winter Olympic Free Skate". YouTube. Archived from the original on 8 July 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  13. ^ White, Jim (5 February 2018). "Britain let John Curry's golden legacy at the Winter Olympics go to waste". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Official IOC Website". Archived from the original on 21 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Innsbruck 1976 Olympics". Archived from the original on 20 July 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  16. ^ Thomson, Candus (24 January 2008). "Curry's state of grace". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 21 November 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  17. ^ John Curry – Scheherazade 1980 (Professional Version) Archived 8 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Youtube
  18. ^ Edwards, Phil (2003). "The Real John Curry". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 4 April 2003.
  19. ^ "On this day 1976: John Curry skates to Olympic gold". BBC Online. 11 February 1976. Archived from the original on 17 December 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  20. ^ Vinocur, John. "The Loner Who Struck Gold". No. 13/02/1976. Birmingham Daily Post.
  21. ^ Jones, Bill (2015). Alone. The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry. Bloomsbury. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-4088-5356-6.
  22. ^ O'Callahan, Eoin (17 February 2018). "Adam Rippon, John Curry and figure skating's complex history with gay athletes". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  23. ^ "John Curry outed as gay figure skater". Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  24. ^ "Adam Rippon introduction to John Curry". 30 May 2019. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  25. ^ "Skating star Curry dying of AIDS". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  26. ^ Russell, Susan (10 June 2007). "John Curry: Triumph and Tragedy". International Figure Skating. Archived from the original on 2 January 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Family bids farewell to John Curry". Dundee Courier. 21 April 1994.
  28. ^ "Curry remembered". Dundee Courier. 12 September 1994.
  29. ^ Belonsky, Andrew (21 May 2007). "New Bio Outs Late, Great, "Gay" Alan Bates / Queerty". Queerty. Archived from the original on 25 September 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  30. ^ The Ice King-Dogwoof-Documentary Distribution Archived 2 April 2018 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 1 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Preceded by BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Succeeded by