Rosalynn Sumners

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Rosalyn Sumners
Personal information
Country representedUnited States
Born (1964-04-20) April 20, 1964 (age 54)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
ResidenceEdmonds, Washington, U.S.
Height5 ft 1 in (155 cm)
Skating clubSeattle Skating Club

Rosalynn Diane Sumners (born April 20, 1964) is an American ladies' singles figure skater. She was the World Junior champion in 1980, the U.S. National champion in 1982, 1983 and 1984, World champion in 1983, and won a silver medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics (second to Katarina Witt).


Though born in Palo Alto, California, Sumners was raised in Edmonds, Washington and learned to skate there, and considered it to be her hometown throughout her skating career. 5th Avenue in Edmonds was renamed "Rosalynn Sumners Boulevard" in 1984 after her Olympic performance. "Roz" as many would call her was a very hard working skater. Her coach, Lorraine Borman, was called the "Wizard of Roz" and established her student's artistry as her strong point in her skating. Sumners balanced her athleticism and artistry which always gave her that competitive edge.

Sumners first emerged when she won the World Junior title in 1980. She impressed all with her free skating style throughout the 1980-1981, usually placing 1st or 2nd in free skating round of competitions but at this point in her career extremely weak in compulsory figures (at the tail end of her career a great strength) did not make the U.S World team or win many medals.

In the 1981-1982 season while still having a strong weakness in figures, she made a larger impact. She won a silver in a stacked field at Skate Canada (winning the free skate and combined free skate, but being 8th in figures), and later won an upset U.S title over defending Champion Elaine Zayak, rising star Vikki De Vries, and veteran Priscilla Hill, climbing from 5th place after the figures by winning the short and long programs. At the World Figure Skating Championships Rosalynn would be forced to water down her technical content due to injury, attempting only 1 triple over the 2 free skating phases, but still would deliver strong short and long programs, placing 4th (behind Witt, Leistner, Vodezorova) in the short, 5th in the long (behind Zayak, Witt, Leistner, Kristofics Binder), and 4th in combined free skating (behind Witt, Leistner, Zayak), taking 6th place overall at her first Worlds, despite a low 11th in the compulsory figures.

In 1982-1983 big things were expected of Sumners, and she had shown great improvement in her weakness of compulsory figures. She won Skate America, defeating strong competitors including Claudia Leistner and Kristina Wegelius. Expected to win again she finished a disappointing bronze at Skate Canada, won by teammate Vikki De Vries, after several bad falls in the long program. She then settled for silver behind Katarina Witt at NHK, after a pair of lackluster performances. By U.S Nationals though Rosalynn was at her best, showing improved fitness and power in her jumps, easily defending her title over reigning World Champion and 1981 U.S Champion Elaine Zayak, winning all 3 phases (compulsory figure, short program, long program). Especially impressive was her short program where she did a clean performance including a triple jump combination for the only time of her career in the short, earning mostly 5.9s on both technical and artistic marks. At the World Championships that year she came in as one of the favorites, and did not disappoint, winning her first and only World title. She won the figures, settled for 4th in the short due a miss on her triple jump combination she had done so well at Nationals, then winning the long program. Her main rivals were believed to be Elaine Zayak who withdrew with injury after 11th place in figures, and Katarina Witt who finished 4th overall after only an 8th place in figures, despite a 1st place in the short, and 2nd to Rosalynn (on a 5-4 split) in the final long program.

In the 1983-1984 Sumners often struggled, and generally seemed to be technically off compared to her stellar 1982-1983 season. She even suffered a humiliating loss (while sick) to little known Yugoslav skater Sanda Dubravčić in one international event. She won her 3rd straight U.S title, but only after technical problems in both the short and long programs left her 2nd in both phases to rising star Tiffany Chin. She went into the Olympics as a shaky and narrow favorite for the gold in an Open field where Katarina Witt, Elaine Zayak, reigning World silver medalist Claudia Leistner, Tiffany Chin, and reigning World bronze medalist Elena Vodorezova were also believed to be strong contenders. The event was so open that the perceived 3rd Soviet skater behind Anna Kondrashova and Vodorezova- Kira Ivanova, who had not skated at a World Championships since 1981 due to a travel ban, and was only 4th at the recent European Championships (without Leistner or Vodorozova), took the bronze medal. Rosalynn won the compulsory figures but main rival Katarina Witt who was known to struggle in figures was a distressingly close 3rd. Looking to win the short program to put Witt out of reach, and after a clean jump combination, a foot down on the double axel left Sumners only 5th in that phase, and dropped her to a close 2nd overall going into the long behind Katarina Witt. Had she won the short program she would have only required a 2nd place in the long program to win, but now the winner would come out of whomever won the final long program between her and Witt. Witt delivered a strong, clean, and charismatic performance, with 3 triples and 3 double axels, including a very difficult and then rare double lutz-triple toe. She played it a bit safe too, skating a bit hesitant at times, and leaving out her famed triple flip. With 5 5.9s, 12 5.8s and 1 5.7 out of 18 marks she had positioned herself in good shape, but the judges still leaving it open for Sumners to win with a great performance. Rosalynn would follow with a reasonably strong skate, but a doubled triple toe and singled double axel in the closing seconds (which left her only 2 triples and 2 double axels as opposed to Witt's 3 of each, and also no triple jump combination in the whole performance) likely cost her the gold medal which she would lose by only 1 tenth of a point on a 5-4 split of the judges. Had any of the Soviet, West German, or Canadian judges rose her technical mark by .1 she would have been the winner of the long program and the gold medal. She received a perfect 6.0 for artistic impression from the Italian judge, the first 6.0 awarded in the ladies event at the Olympics since 1972.

She would opt out of trying for a 2nd World title at the upcoming Worlds in Ottawa, and instead turn professional immediately after the 1984 Winter Olympics. She toured first with Disney on Ice, and then was one of the original cast members of the Stars on Ice tour, with which she appeared until 1999. She became one of the most consistent and long standing competitors on the professional circuit, appearing at the World Professional Championships in Landover an astonishing 10 consecutive years (from 1984 to 1993) although never winning the event. Her biggest win was the Challenge of Champions victory in 1986, and she was also a winner at numerous other professional competitions. She would not do any triple jumps in professional competitions, but was known for beautiful and versatile skating.

Sumners lent three of her world figure skating medals to an Edmonds bank for display in 1984. When she returned to pick them up, the bank had changed ownership, and no one knew where the medals had been stored. They were lost for 20 years, but discovered as unclaimed property in a safe deposit box and returned to Sumners (with a mock "awards" ceremony) by the state of Washington in 2004.

On April 24, 2004, she married IMG vice president Bob Kain.


Event 1979–80 1980–81 1981–82 1982–83 1983–84
Winter Olympics 2nd
World Championships 6th 1st
NHK Trophy 2nd
Skate America 4th 1st
Skate Canada 5th 2nd 3rd
International: Junior
World Junior Champ. 1st
U.S. Championships 4th 1st 1st 1st

Records and achievements[edit]

  • World champion (1983)
  • Three-time United States National champion (1982–1984)
  • Olympic silver medalist (1984)
  • Inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame (2001)

External links[edit]