Figure skating is an incredibly interesting sport that has experienced some truly mesmerizing performances over the years. Our infatuation with figure skaters doesn’t cease when they leave the ice. We picked some of our favorites to answer the question: what happened to some of the most iconic figure skaters since they stopped skating?
Katarina Witt is first female to win back to back medals in the Olympics. She first won a gold medal at the Sarajevo games in 1984 and then again four years later in Calgary. After the fall of the Berlin wall and the unification of Germany, Katarina was free to pursue her dreams outside of the world of figure skating. She certainly took advantage of her freedom; appearing in Playboy magazine and also publishing her own memoir in 2005. Additionally in 2013, a biopic aired on ESPN about Witt’s life both before and after the unification of Germany. Most recently, she pushed to have Munich be the city to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Despite her efforts, it was ultimately decided that Pyeongchang, South Korea would host the games.
In 1968, Peggy Fleming won the gold medal for Team U.S. in the ladies’ singles competition. It was actually the only gold medal the team won during the entire tournament. Throughout her entire career, she won the World Championship three times, impressively. On a more personal note, she married her teenage sweetheart, Greg Jenkins, who was previously an amateur figure skater. Since she retired from skating, she battled breast cancer in the 90s, had two sons with her husband Greg, and also partnered with him in opening a vineyard/winery while they lived in California.
Sarah Hudges won the bronze medal in Vancouver at the World Figure Skating Championships. She took it to the next level just a year later when she placed above Irina Slutskaya and Michelle Kwan, winning the gold medal in the ladies’ singles at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Shortly after her Olympic victory, Sarah pursued a B.A. in American Studies at Yale University. One fact many people don’t know about her is that she is Jewish. In 2005 she was inducted into the International Jewish Hall of Fame. Currently, Sarah is pursuing a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She took a break to act as the only athlete to sit with the U.S. Presidential Delegation at the most recent Winter Olympic Games.
Johnny Weir amazed the world by winning three U.S. figure skating championships consecutively (2004, 2005, and 2006). In 2008, he was the only member of Team U.S. at the World Championship to win a medal. He was awarded the bronze medal which is his biggest figure skating achievement. Since his retirement in 2013, Johnny Weir has collaborated with his best friend and fellow retired figure skater, Tara Lipinski, and together the duo have become very famous analysts for a variety of figure skating shows. As a result of their success and undeniable chemistry, Weir and Lipinski have co-hosted a number of non-skating events including the Academy Awards. Weir has been openly gay since 2011, and is well known for being a very dedicated GLBTQ activist.
Debi Thomas made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win a medal in the Winter Olympics. She took the bronze medal in 1988 at the games in Calgary and became world champion in 1986. Debi always wanted to continue her education even while figure skating. Even during her Olympic days she enrolled in Stanford University where she was a pre-med student. She took some breaks from her studies due to the demands of also pursuing figure skating, and retired from figure skating at just age 21. She completed her medical degree in 1991 and then pursued a surgical residency at two different U.S. universities. Eventually she opened her own private practice.
Sasha Cohen was devastated after winning the World Championship three times when she “only” received the silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. She was further disenchanted after failing to make Team U.S. for the third time in 2010. Cohen questioned her continuation in the world of figure skating, and retired shortly after. Since the end of her figure skating career, Cohen has tried a variety of different pursuits including acting. She made an appearance on CSI: NY, and was featured in the movie Blazing Saddles. Like many other retired skaters, she also continued her education getting a degree from Columbia University in political science. More recently, in 2016, Cohen was recognized for her great accomplishments and was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Brian Boitano was World Champion two times (1986, and 1988), and also received the gold medal for the men’s singles competition at the Winter Olympics in Calgary. He had a famous rivalry with fellow male figure skater, Brian Orser. The media called their rivalry the “Battle of the Brian’s.” Brian turned professional, and one of his most notable career ventures since this decision was his role in the Emmy Award-winning movie Carmen on Ice. He surprised the world by starring alongside his former rival, Brian Orser. He was honored by getting inducted into the Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1996. More recently, Orser has gotten away from figure skating and had his own show on the Food Network entitled What Would Brian Boitano Eat?
Torvill and Dean
Two of the most iconic figure skaters to ever come out of the U.K. has to be Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. They are often referred to as just “Torvill and Dean” and despite the rumors, they were never romantically involved. They had one of the most distinguished careers of any figure skating duo of all time. They won a shocking number of medals. 18 in total, and 16 of those were gold! They also made history during the 1984 Winter Olympic games where they received the highest score of any figure skaters ever, receiving twelve perfect 6.0s. Some think their career came to a sad end when they won only the bronze medal at the 1994 Olympics. They continued their love of the sport by acting as ambassadors post retirement.
Oksana Baiul was also extremely young when she won the gold medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics. She was just 16 years old. Just three years after she won the gold medal she was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. She spent a large portion of the 90s fighting alcoholism and at one point stated her rehabilitation and recover were more important than winning the gold medal. She eventually recovered and performed in various ice shows including Cold as Ice. Additionally, she pursued a career in reality television, appearing both on the skating show Master of Champions and on season 13 of The Apprentice.
Rudy Galindo never competed in the Olympics, and most of his most revered career achievements was when he skated in pairs competitions alongside Kristi Yamaguchi. They won the 1988 World Junior Championships, as well as the 1989 and 1990 U.S. National Championships. Both Rudy and Kristi decided to pursue solo skating careers after this. Galindo did reach the top of the men’s singles and he shocked the world by completing a triple jump eight times at the 1996 U.S. Championships where he won the gold medal. Galindo is one of the only figure skaters on this list to never have competed at the Olympics. He did make history when he became the first openly gay Latino U.S. figure skater and champion in the history of the sport.
Surya Bonaly is the first woman ever to complete the quadruple toe lift. She is best known for standing up to judges who she believed held a racist bias against her at the 1998 Winter Olympics. Angry at low markets for her short skate earlier in the day, she landed the incredibly dangerous a one-bladed back flip during her long routine. The move is illegal and she did it to send a message to the judges. Despite landing the move, the judges deducted points from her final score because of it. Still to this day she remains the only figure skater to attempt and complete the move at the Olympics. She is a three-time World silver medalist, a five-time European champion, the 1991 World Junior Champion and a nine-time French national champion. Currently, Surya is continuing her love of figure skating through coaching a new generation of figure skaters in Minnesota. She also teaches, and is involved in various social movements including animal rights.
Nicole Bobek was coached unsuccessfully by eleven different coaches during her professional skating career. Despite her difficult personality and lack of a permanent coach, she does have a number of commendable achievements under her belt including being the 1995 U.S. national champion and 1995 World bronze medalist. She was expected to place at the top of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Things did not go as planned as a hip injury resulted in her placing 17th at the event. Not too long after the failure at the Olympics, Bobek was caught selling illicit substances which was an all-time low for the figure skater. She has had a number of other run ins with the law including being arrested for first degree home invasion in Michigan in 1995, and more recently in 2009 for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. On a brighter note, she developed a deep passion for performing in circuses and one of her most notable performances was in 2015 when she performed a hoop routine at a skating show hosted by Nancy Kerrigan. She married one of her circus co-stars in 2017 in Florida.
Elvis Stojko is three-time World champion (1994, 1995, 1997), two-time Olympic silver medalist (1994, 1998), and seven-time Canadian champion (1994, 1996–2000, and 2002). He made figure skating history being the first in the sport to achieve a quadruple-triple combo at the 1991 World Championships. In addition to his amazing figure skating, he is famous for his unique persona that was considered by many to be “anti-figure skating.” He is remembered for wearing heavy metal costumes, performing to rock songs, and having a very unique personality. Stojko’s love of figure skating has never ceased as he still performs about 70 times per year and often with his wife who is also a former figure skater. He has maintained a number of other hobbies in addition to figure skating including go-karting and kung-fu. He also performed on Broadway in a rendition of Chicago as Billy Flynn.
Tai Babilonia & Randy Gardner
Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner had a unique connection that resulted in their success. They made history when they became the first U.S. champions in nearly two decades. Unfortunately, their success was halted after Gardner suffered from a groin injury resulting in their pulling out of the 1980 Winter Olympics. They were critics and fans favorites to win the gold that year. Despite this, the duo have maintained a close friendship and they recently celebrated working together for 50 years at the Ice Theater of New York. These days, Babiloia coaches figure skating occasionally, and Gardner dis a choreographer. Moreover, Gardner starred in his own show entitled Go Figure: The Randy Garnder Story.
Frenchman Philippe Candeloro is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist (1994, 1998), a two-time World medalist (1994 silver, 1995 bronze), a two-time European silver medalist (1993, 1997), and a four-time French national champion (1994–97). He is best remembered for inventing his own signature move through a skating accident which occurred during one of his performances. Before landing, he spun around and then slipped to his knees. The mistake only served to benefit him by making his skating even more unique. After retiring, Phillipe turned to the world of news broadcasting and sports journalism in France.
While Brian Orser was a World Champion at one point during his career, he is best remembered for loosing the “Battle of the Brian’s” when his biggest rival, Brian Boitano, took the gold medal at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Despite this, he held a number of other successes including winning the gold medal in 1987 at the World Championships in Cincinnati and the silver medal twice at the Winter Olympics (1984,1988). After sustaining some injuries, he ventured into the world of coaching. He coached Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu who won the gold medal in 2014. Aside from skating, Orser came out as gay in 1988 and opened the Brian Orser foundation with his partner Rajesh Tiwari. The foundation raises funds for HIV and women’s health issues.
When you hear the name Scott Hamilton, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is back flips. Not only was it awesome when he performed one, but it was something not many other skaters could do. Despite the excitement from fans when he completed the move, it was deemed illegal in the U.S. and by the Olympic Committee. Hamilton followed the rules in order to win four World Championships, and four consecutive U.S. Championships between 1981 and 1984. The peak of his career was at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo where he took the gold medal. Hamilton is also responsible for founding Stars on Ice in the 1980s. Unfortunately, his participation in skating was limited later on the 90s when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cancer was in remission as of 1997. Hamilton also suffered from a childhood condition resulting in numerous brain tumors between 2004 and 2016. This prompted him to start the CARES Initiative which focuses on cancer research. His most recent venture was acting as an ambassador at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
David Pelletier and Jamie Salé
The tale of Canadian figure skating duo David Pelletier and Jamie Salé is an interesting one. The pair had some great successes on the ice. They won two consecutive gold medals first at the 2001 World Championships and then again at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah despite being the center of a judging scandal. Most individuals who were neutral believed they deserved to take the gold medal. On a more personal note, the duo fell in love and were married in 2005. Together they have a son, Jesse Joe Pelletier but their love unfortunately didn’t last. They eventually divorced, but were still able to maintain their partnership on the ice. More recently, they were inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame and to the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.
Kitty and Peter Carruthers
Kitty and Peter Carruthers are one of the most famous sibling skating duos of all time. They are from Massachusetts and they made a name for themselves in 1984 when they beat out all their Soviet rivals to win the silver medal in Sarajevo. They were so ecstatic about their placement they embraced each other for a long minute in front of a huge standing ovation from the crowd. Peter went on to become a very famous broadcaster and is married with two children. Kitty decided to pursue coaching in Houston, Texas. Despite living different lives, the siblings occasionally reunite for special occasions. The most recent occurrence was in 2013 where they skated together.
Viktor Petrenko had an interesting career as he represented the Soviet Union, Unified Team and the Ukraine. He originally represented the Soviet Union, and after it dissolved he was the first ever to represent his home country, the Ukraine. He achieved the most success in his skating career when he skated with the Unified team. The climax of his career was in 1992 when he received the gold medal at the Albertville Winter Olympics. Despite retiring from the world of figure skating, he continued to coach a number of talented figure skaters including Oksana Baiul who went on to win the gold medal two years after Petrenko did. He also coached Johnny Weir, Natalia Popova and Michal Brezina.
Nancy Kerrigan will probably always be one of the most iconic names in the world of figure skating as she was the target of one of the most public figure skating attacks in the history of the sport. She is best remembered for being attacked by someone Tonya Harding’s husband hired. She rose to fame at the 1991 World Championships and went on to win the silver medal at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. Fortunately, there hasn’t been much controversy in her life since the attack. More recently she has made appearances in various movies and television shows including Blades of Glory and Fresh Off The Boat. She also was a participant in season 24 of Dancing with the Stars.
As previously mentioned, Kristi Yamaguchi is one of few figure skaters who found success in both the singles and pairs competitions. Some of her achievements include winning the gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, and being two time World Champion (1991, 1992). Additionally, she won the National Championships in 1989 and 1990 with her equally famous partner, Rudy Galindo. Kristi was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in addition to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Kristi is also remembered for participating in many professional tours primarily with Stars on Ice. Aside from skating, she has engaged in different philanthropic efforts including establishing the “Always Dream Foundation” in 1996. The charity aims to reduce childhood illiteracy. Kristi made an impressive appearance in season six of Dancing with the Stars.
Tonya first made a name for herself the same year as her main rival, Nancy Kerrigan in 1989. As we all know Harding was famously banned from competing after someone her husband hired attacked Nancy Kerrigan. This event often overshadows her skating achievements which are plentiful. She made history becoming the first female skater from the U.S. to complete the very difficult triple axle. Additionally, she won the 1989 Skate America Competition, and placed twice at the U.S. Championship (1991 and 1994). The attack on Nancy Kerrigan essentially ended her skating career as she was banned from competing by the U.S. Figure Skating Association. She was also stripped of her 1991 and 1994 titles. After this, Tonya decided to take her talents to the professional boxing ring, but this was short lived. Harding ended her boxing career by winning 3 matches, and loosing 3. Currently, she is married to Joseph Price and the couple had a son in 2011. America is currently revisiting her career and engaging in a debate about her role in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan due to the debut of the critically acclaimed biopic I, Tonya. In addition to the film questioning her role in the attack, it also shows a darker side of the skating world as many judges and people with power in the industry discriminated against Harding due to her low socio-economic status.
Michelle Kwan rose to fame came just at the turn of the millenium when she made her Olympic debut at just 18 years if age in 1998. She took the silver medal and also won the bronze medal in 2002. Moreover, she is a five time World Champion. Unfortunately, her skating career took a hit in 2006 due to Kwan suffering from a severe injury. Kwan decided to then focus on education and she studied at both the University of Denver and Tufts University. Kwan has always maintained a vast interest in politics and after studying she worked as a coordinator for the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Her personal life gained attention when she married White House National Security Staff member Clay Pell but they divorced in 2017.
Tara Lipinski was just 15 years old when she won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Her name will forever be remembered in history as the youngest to take a gold medal in any sport. Lipinski’s laundry list of achievements don’t end there. She also took the World Championship in 1997 and was the Champions Series Final champion in both 1997 and 1998. After retiring from the sport, like many of her peers Lipinski participating in Stars on Ice and Champions on Ice. More recently, Lipinski is again in the public eye working as a commentator on NBC alongside fellow figure skater and best friend, Johnny Weir. The duo have helped introduce skating to a younger audience.
1976 should be remembered as the year of Dorothy Hamill. It was that year where she won the ladies’ singles event at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck as well as the World Championship. She managed to win these events without completing a triple jump which was out of the ordinary in those years. Hamill gained popularity not only because of her wins but also due to her creativity. She created her own move called the “Hamill camel” which is a camel spin that turns into a sit spin. She also turned to professional performances and appeared in many events including Broadway on Ice. She participated in season 16 of Dancing with the Stars but ended her involvement after only two episodes due to an injury.
South Korean figure skater, Yuna Kim, is so talented that the media gave her the famous media nickname “Queen Yuna.” She won the gold medal in the Olympic Games in 2010. Additionally, she is the 2014 silver medalist in the ladies’ singles event, two time World Champion (2009, 2013), three time Grand Prix Final Champion, among many other victories. One other impressive accomplishment is that she is the former record holder for the ladies short, free skate and combined total. She has broken previous records 11 times with high scores that she has earned. She was named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential 100 people in 2010. She was recognized both for her skating and her philanthropic efforts. As of 2015 she has donated millions of dollars to various charitable organizations. Kim has kept incredibly busy since her retirement. She opened her own sports agency, has appeared in numerous Korean commercials, ventured into recording music, and has worked with UNICEF sending messages of peace worldwide.
Chinese, but originally from Oakland, California, Tiffany Chin is another impressive figure skater turn skating coach. She first rose to fame in the 80s when the sport was dominated by impressive Soviet Athletes. To have an extremely competitive Asian-American woman share the same ice as these athletes seemed impossible at that time. She first rose to fame when she was 15, taking the bronze medal in the U.S. Championships in 1983. She will always be remembered in figure skating history as the first woman of Asian decent to win a national title. She was extremely successful but often faced racism in the skating world and media. Many called her the racist nickname “China Doll” and commentators often stated it is because of her ethnicity that she was able to move with the elegance that she did. She retired from skating in 1987, pursued her education, and then became a coach. She is remembered for having paved the way for other Asian-American athletes including Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan.
It’s shocking to realize it has been almost 20 years since Jill Trenary skated professionally. She certainly made a name for her self in the uber competitive world. She holds three U.S. Championships and a world title. She unfortunately sustained a major injury causing her to retire early at just age 23. She married famous figure skater, Christopher Dean. He won the Olympic gold medal in 1984 for ice dancing with partner Jayne Torvill. The duo is reported to have split up in 2010. Despite early retirement and separating from her husband, Jill keeps her self busy acting as a part-time coach in Colorado Springs, and being a full-time mom to her two sons, Jack and Sam. In recent interviews, Jill has referred to herself as a total “homebody” and very much enjoys her role as a mother and skating mentor.