Surya Bonaly

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Surya Bonaly
Bonaly in 1992
Personal information
Country represented France
Born (1973-12-15) December 15, 1973 (age 43)
Nice, France
Residence Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Height 1.56 m (5 ft 1 12 in)
Former coach Didier Gailhaguet, Annick Gailhaguet, André Brunet, Suzanne Bonaly, Tatiana Tarasova, Alain Giletti
Former skating club CSG Pralognan
AC Boulogne Billancourt
Former training locations Marlborough, USA
Began skating 1985
Retired 1998

Surya Bonaly (born December 15, 1973) is a former French figure skater who competed for France. She is a three-time World silver medalist (1993–1995), a five-time European champion (1991–1995), the 1991 World Junior Champion, and a nine-time French national champion (1989–1997).

Bonaly is the only female Olympic figure skater to land a backflip on only one blade; she performed it at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Early life[edit]

Bonaly was born in Nice, France on December 15, 1973.[1][2] Initially named Claudine, she was adopted at 18 months old by Suzanne and Georges Bonaly, who gave her the name Surya.[3] Suzanne worked as a physical education teacher and Georges as an architect for the government. The couple initially told the media that their daughter had been born on the island of Réunion because they thought this origin sounded more "exotic".[4] When Surya approached the age of 18 and began researching her birth history, her parents admitted that Surya's biological mother had been from the island but that Surya herself had not been born there. Didier Gailhaguet, who was Bonaly's first coach of her competitive career, admitted fabricating the story because he thought it would interest the press.[5]


Bonaly was originally a competitive gymnast. She began skating as an eleven-year-old in Nice, in 1985,[1] before relocating to Paris.[3] Early media reports said that Gailhaguet discovered Bonaly at a public session, but years later, she said she had wanted to skate in Gailhaguet's competitive skating group and actually asked to participate.[6] She broke both wrists before learning how to fall properly.[7]

1987–88 to 1989–90[edit]

Bonaly finished 14th at her first ISU Championship, the 1988 Junior Worlds in Brisbane, Australia.

The following season, Bonaly won the bronze medal at 1989 World Junior Championships and her first senior national title. She also began appearing on the senior level, placing eighth at the 1989 European Championships and tenth at 1989 World Championships.

Bonaly was awarded the silver medal behind Japan's Yuka Sato at the 1990 World Junior Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She finished fourth at the 1990 European Championships and ninth at the 1990 World Championships.

1990–91 season: World Junior and European titles[edit]

Bonaly began the 1990–91 season with a pair of senior international medals – gold at the 1990 Grand Prix International de Paris and bronze at the 1990 Skate Electric. Making her final junior appearance, she stood on top of the podium at the 1991 World Junior Championships in Budapest, Hungary. After taking her third national title, she competed at the 1991 European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. She was awarded the gold medal ahead of two German skaters, Evelyn Großmann and Marina Kielmann.

She placed fifth at the 1991 World Championships in Munich, Germany.

1991–92 season: Second European title and first Olympic appearance[edit]

In January 1992, Bonaly outscored Kielmann and Patricia Neske for the gold medal at the European Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. In February 1992, she took the Athlete's Oath at the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. During a practice session, she landed a back flip near Japan's Midori Ito and was told by officials not to do it again.[8] She became the first and only female to attempt a quadruple toe loop in competition but the jump was not fully rotated in the air and she had to complete the rotation on the ice, making it a triple and not a quadruple.[8] She finished fifth.

After the Olympics, she parted ways with Gailhaguet and joined André Brunet, who coached her for one month.[9][10] She concluded her season at the 1992 World Championships in Oakland, California. Ranked tenth in the short and 12th in the free, she finished 11th overall.

1992–93 season: First World silver medal[edit]

Bonaly was coached mainly by her mother from April to September 1992 and also made two month-long visits, in June and September, to Frank Carroll in southern California; although she wanted to stay with Carroll permanently, the French skating federation was opposed to its skaters training abroad.[10] Alain Giletti became her coach, commuting four times a week by train from Tours to Paris, and her mother filled in during his absences.[10]

Bonaly won the 1993 European Championships in Helsinki, having placed first in both segments ahead of Ukraine's Oksana Baiul and Germany's Marina Kielmann. At the 1993 World Championships in Prague, she took silver behind Oksana Baiul, who narrowly took the title with higher presentation scores.[11]

1993–94 season[edit]

In January 1994, Bonaly placed first in all segments on her way to her fourth consecutive continental title at the Europeans Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. The other medalists were Baiul and Russia's Olga Markova. A month later, she competed at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Ranked third in the short program and fourth in the free skate, she finished fourth overall behind Baiul, Nancy Kerrigan, and Chen Lu.

At the 1994 World Championships in Chiba, Japan – where the three Olympic medalists did not compete – Bonaly's final overall score was equal to home country favorite Yuka Sato, who would be awarded the gold medal after a 5-4 tiebreaker decision.[12] Upset by the result, Bonaly stood beside the medals platform rather than on it. She eventually stepped onto the platform but took off her silver medal after it was presented to her; she was immediately booed by the crowd.[13] After the medals presentation, Bonaly's only statement to reporters was: "I'm just not lucky."

1994–95 season: Fifth European title[edit]

In 1995, Bonaly won the European Championships for the fifth time, finishing ahead of Markova and Ukraine's Olena Liashenko. At the 1995 World Championships in Birmingham, England, she placed fourth in the short program but rose to second after the free skate. She was awarded her third World silver medal, behind Chen Lu of China.[14]

1995–96 to 1996–97[edit]

Ranked first in the short program and second in the free skate, Bonaly took silver behind Russia's Irina Slutskaya at the 1996 European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. She finished fifth at the 1996 World Championships in Edmonton, having placed seventh in the short and fifth in the free.

In May 1996, Bonaly ruptured her achilles tendon while doing acrobatics.[15] Due to the injury, she missed much of the following season.[16] The French federation initially decided not to name her to the 1997 European Championships in Paris, believing that she lacked fitness, but Bonaly successfully appealed.[15] She finished 9th overall after placing 6th in qualifying group B, 6th in the short program, and 10th in the free skate.

1997–98 season: Third Olympics[edit]

During the 1997–98 season, Bonaly was coached by Suzanne Bonaly and Tatiana Tarasova in Marlborough, USA.[1] At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Bonaly finished well out of reach of the gold medal following the short program. Unable to complete her planned routine due to injury, Bonaly decided to perform her backflip landing on one blade during the free skate. The move, illegal in competition, caused a stir and resulted in a deduction but Bonaly was content with her decision.[17][18] She finished tenth in Nagano and retired from amateur competition after the event.

Her skating clubs were CSG Pralognan[1] and CSG Champigny.[2]

Later career[edit]

Bonaly toured with the Champions on Ice skating show for several years[19] until it went out of business after 2007. She also performed in shows in Russia with Evgeni Plushenko and was a guest skater at Ice Theatre of New York's December 2008 gala in NYC where she successfully performed her back flip.[20]

Bonaly was an off-screen character on the "Will on Ice" episode of NBC's Will & Grace which originally aired on January 12, 1999.[21] In 2010, she was a finalist on La Ferme Célébrités season 3.[22] In 2015, she underwent surgery after the discovery of numerous cysts along her spinal cord, ending her performing career.[7]

As of September 2016, Bonaly was coaching in Minnesota.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Bonaly became an American citizen in January 2004.[5] After living in Las Vegas, Nevada,[20] she moved to Minnesota.[7] Bonaly became engaged to Pete Biver on September 18, 2016.

Bonaly, a vegetarian,[23][24] has appeared in many PETA ads in both English and French, namely acting against Canada's seal hunt and against the fur trade.[25][26][27]


Season Short program Free skating

Competitive highlights[edit]

Event 87–88 88–89 89–90 90–91 91–92 92–93 93–94 94–95 95–96 96–97 97–98
Olympics 5th 4th 10th
Worlds 10th 9th 5th 11th 2nd 2nd 2nd 5th
Europeans 8th 4th 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 2nd 9th 6th
Cup of Russia 4th
Lalique 7th 1st 1st 5th 1st 1st 1st 3rd
Nations Cup 1st
NHK Trophy 2nd 1st 1st 2nd 4th
Skate America 6th 5th 3rd 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Skate Canada 7th 1st 3rd
Goodwill Games 3rd 1st
Nebelhorn Trophy 2nd 1st
Piruetten 4th
International: Junior[1]
Junior Worlds 14th 3rd 2nd 1st
French Champ. 4th 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 2nd


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Surya BONALY". International Skating Union. Archived from the original on 21 May 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Surya Bonaly". Sports Reference. 
  3. ^ a b c "Biographies: BONALY Surya" (in French). Fédération Française des Sports de Glace. Archived from the original on April 2, 2007. 
  4. ^ Wallechinsky, David. Complete Book of the Winter Olympics. 
  5. ^ a b Mullen, Maureen (April 2, 2004). "Positive spin". Boston Globe. 
  6. ^ Farris, Jo Ann Schneider (May 24, 2009). "Surya Wants to Help Today's Young Skaters". IceNetwork. 
  7. ^ a b c d Du, Susan (September 7, 2016). "Figure skating's bad-girl star Surya Bonaly makes new life in Minnesota". City Pages. 
  8. ^ a b "French skater comes close in bid for first quad toe loop". Toledo Blade. 22 February 1992. Retrieved May 5, 2016 – via Google. 
  9. ^ "Surya s'eclipse". L'Humanité (in French). 31 March 1992. 
  10. ^ a b c Clarey, Christopher (17 December 1992). "California Training Helps Bonaly Bloom: French Skater Discovers U.S.". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Bondy, Filip (14 March 1993). "FIGURE SKATING; Ukraine's Rising Star Sets Worlds Ablaze". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  12. ^ "FIGURE SKATING; Cheers for Sato of Japan; Tears for Bonaly of France". The New York Times. 27 March 1994. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  13. ^ 1994 World Figure Skating Championship Medal Ceremony,
  14. ^ Clarey, Christopher (12 March 1995). "FIGURE SKATING; Chinese Skater Glides to World Title as Bobek Falls to the Bronze". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  15. ^ a b "Figure skating: Arrowsmith on target". The Independent. January 20, 1997. 
  16. ^ Penner, Mike (February 20, 1998). "It's a Small World – Kwan, Lipinski Will Be in a Class of Their Own". Los Angeles Times. 
  17. ^ Goff, Keli (February 18, 2014). "Figure Skater Surya Bonaly Flipped Her Way Into Our Hearts". The Root (magazine). 
  18. ^ Katz, Chloe (15 February 2014). "Levelling the ring". The Economist. New York. 
  19. ^ "Decazeville. " La seule à faire le salto arrière "". 10 December 2009. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  20. ^ a b "Surya Bonaly Lives in Las Vegas and That's Totally by Accident". December 22, 2008. 
  21. ^ ""Will on Ice" of NBC's "Will and Grace"". 
  22. ^ "Surya Bonaly quitte la Ferme Célébrités en Afrique" [Surya Bonaly leaves Ferme Célébrités en Afrique] (in French). Star Agora. April 6, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2010. 
  23. ^ "International Vegetarian Union – Surya Bonaly". Retrieved December 25, 2008. 
  24. ^ Nieman, David C. (December 19, 2006). "Vegetarian diets, when properly planned, provide all the nutrients you need". Retrieved December 25, 2008. 
  25. ^ ""Get the violence off the ice. Stop the Canadian seal hunt."". PETA. 
  26. ^ ""I feel free on the ice and so should baby seals."". PETA. 
  27. ^ ""I'd rather skate naked than wear fur."". PETA. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Surya Bonaly at Wikimedia Commons