Surya Bonaly is a three-time World silver medalist, a five-time European champion, the 1991 World Junior Champion and a nine-time French national champion. She is a former gymnast and the first woman to ever attempt the quadruple toe loop. She is perhaps best known for completing a one bladed backflip during her free skate at the 1998 Winter Olympics. She is the only skater to ever do this (male or female).
The only thing more bad ass than that is why she did it. As we all know Olympic figure skating can be quite racist and Surya was tired of being given consistently lower scores than her white counterparts, and she wasn’t shy about it. She believed that this was exactly why she has been given a low score on her short program earlier in the day, and decided to send the judges a message.
Now back flips are crazy dangerous. If you don’t land perfectly you can severely injure yourself, which would sideline any athlete, potentially permanently. In order to discourage athletes from attempting them, they were made illegal in Olympic competition. The official reason they gave is because all jumps must be landed on one blade to be scored and, of course, in order to complete a back flip you must land on both feet.
So not only did she complete an insanely risky and difficult move but when Surya landed her back flip she essentially made it legal, because she was able to do it while still only using one blade. She was daring the judges to try and low ball her. Unfortunately, they still ruled the move was illegal and deducted it against her in her final score. She may have been unable to medal but she got the last laugh. After completing her free skate she turned her back to the judges, showing them just how much their opinions matter. For this, and for everything else, she goes down in history as not only one the greatest figure skaters ever but a true bad ass.
Excerpted from here.
Mike Kelley & Ericka Beckman
It was inspired by the H.G. Wells short story The Country of the Blind, which was a favorite of mine as an adolescent. I was both fascinated and repulsed by this tale of a man having to give up his eyes to live in an alien sightless society. In rereading it as an adult I was struck by the obvious fact, which I was oblivious to as a boy, that it is a castration story, and by the thinly veiled sexual and racial fears within it. Blind Country bears no discernable reference to the Wells story but instead plays with these subtle underlying themes.
- Mike Kelley