Pj's all-time top 10: Men | Figure Skating | CBC Sports

Figure SkatingPj's all-time top 10: Men

Posted: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | 11:52 AM

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Canada's Kurt Browning captured the third of his four world titles in 1991 in Munich. (Paul Chiasson/Associated Press) Canada's Kurt Browning captured the third of his four world titles in 1991 in Munich. (Paul Chiasson/Associated Press)

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After last week's list of the best ladies' figure skaters of all time, my colleagues at CBCSports.ca have challenged me to come up with another top 10.

This time I'm ranking the greatest men's skaters ever, in order of how I think they'd finish in a fantasy competition where I'm the only judge.
After last week's list of the best ladies' figure skaters of all time, my colleagues at CBCSports.ca have challenged me to come up with another top 10.

This time I'm ranking the greatest men's skaters ever, in order of how I think they'd finish in a fantasy competition where I'm the only judge.

As tough as it was to select and rank my top 10 ladies, that was a walk in the park compared with narrowing down the men's field. For me, the thing that defines my list of men is the rivalries: Curry vs. Cranston, Stojko vs. Browning, Boitano vs. Orser, and of course Yagudin vs. Plushenko.

Agree with my rankings? Disagree? Feel free to set me straight with your own top 10. I want to hear from you! Leave your comments at the bottom of this page or give me a shout on Twitter.

On with the list! (click on the names of the skaters to watch video of them in action)

1. Dick Button, United States (1948 and '52 Olympic champion, 5- time world champion, 7-time U.S. champion)

The only American man to win the European title and one of the reasons that the European championships stopped allowing non-European competitors, Button tops my list partly because he was the first man to perform a double Axel (in 1948) and a triple jump of any kind (a loop in 1952). He also created the camel and flying camel spins. With the kind of focus and brain power that he would have needed to skate competitively and attend Harvard University full time, Button is my pick for top of the heap. Did I mention he's also a graduate of Harvard Law and has been doing commentary for figure skating since the Olympics in 1960? He wins. Definitely.

2. John Curry, Great Britain (1976 Olympic, world and European champion)

I remember the summer that Curry came to skate at my rink in Toronto and not really understanding the impact that this man would leave on the sport. Most interesting to me was that summer skating that year put two rivals on the ice at the same time in Curry and Toller Cranston. Both men were ahead of their time, but Curry introduced an artistry, elegance and refinement to figure skating that was easily understood. It was as plain as anything: this was art. As an aside, Lori Nichol credits working in Curry's touring skating show for giving her the foundation and choreographic "vocabulary" that has made her famous.

3. Toller Cranston, Canada (1976 Olympic and world bronze medallist)

Cranston is the first celebrity I ever met (circa 1971). Even in practice, his skating had a single-minded purpose that often had other skaters watching from the side during his run-throughs. He's a man who has always been able to get me to "buy" what he is "selling" on the ice or on his artist's canvas. I'm not the only one. He's widely credited with bringing artistic expression to the fore in men's skating. "I am the alchemist. Let me count the ways," he once told me. Full marks for being larger than life. An original.

4. Kurt Browning, Canada (1989, '90, '91 and '93 world champion)

Browning became the first man to land a quadruple jump when he performed a quad toe at the worlds in Budapest in 1988. His iconic Casablanca program in 1993 was the first time that I remember the audience being treated to a "character" program, which he also used for the Olympics in 1994. Browning gets my vote for his mastery of the blade and ongoing ability to entertain.

5. Elvis Stojko, Canada (1994, '95 & '97 world champion, 2-time Olympic silver medallist)

Stojko was in a class of his own as a jumper. He was the first to land both the quad-double (in 1991) and quad-triple (1997) combinations in competition. What puts him on my list is his courageous performance at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where he put aside excruciating pain from a torn groin muscle to do what was needed. He is the stuff of legends. A modern gladiator.

6. Brian Boitano, United States (1988 Olympic champion, 2-time world champion)

Boitano decided that, if he was going to win Olympic gold in 1988, he would require programs that would beef up his presentation scores. Sandra Bezic choreographed programs that made use of Boitano's 5-foot-11 frame, highlighting his long and elegant lines. That may have given him the edge in the famous "Battle of the Brians" competition in Calgary between Boitano and Brian Orser , which came down to the wire and a 5-4 split in Boitano's favour.

7. Alexei Yagudin, Russia (2002 Olympic champion, 4-time world champion)

The rumour at the 2002 Olympics was that, given their druthers, the Russian federation was hoping their other star skater, Evgeni Plushenko, would win gold. Simply put, Yagudin had other ideas and blew the roof off the building in his free program. He earned four perfect 6.0s for artistic impression that night in Salt Lake and a permanent spot in my memory bank.

8. Brian Orser, Canada (1987 world champion, 2-time Olympic silver medallist)

As the "other" Brian in the Battle of the Brians at the Calgary Games in 1988, Orser had the advantages of home ice and being the defending world champion. A slight error in his free program opened the door for Boitano to walk off with gold. Orser makes this list on the strength of having been a great skater, of finally being able to let his Olympic disappointments go, and for a wonderful show career. I'm also impressed by how he has used his experience as a competitor to take the coaching world by storm.

9. Evgeni Plushenko, Russia (2006 Olympic champion, 2-time Olympic silver medallist, 3-time world champion)

If you know me at all, you might be surprised that I would include Plushenko on this list. His arrogance drives me crazy. His lack of choreography when he is so talented makes me even crazier. But I do have to admit that his accomplishments and widely acknowledged prowess as a jumper might have been enough for inclusion in my top 10. What clinched it for me was the 2006 Olympics, where his domination in both the short and free was absolute. He was untouchable. The atmosphere in the building was electric. All eyes on Plushenko - just the way he wanted it. It was thrilling.

10. Patrick Chan, Canada (2011 world champion, 2-time world silver medallist)

It's been said many times that Chan is a "skater's skater." What that means is that, regardless of what kind of music he skates to or what kind of choreography supplies the backdrop, Chan's ability to get from one side of the rink to the other is the gold standard by which all other skaters judge themselves. If you needed any more convincing, he set world records for the highest scores ever achieved in the short, free and overall totals at the world championships last spring. He's ranked at the bottom of this list because he's still mastering the art of consistency in competition.

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