Player's Own Voice

Player's Own Voice podcast: Surya Bonaly's quiet revolution

The Player's Own Voice podcast settles in to a revealing chat with Surya Bonaly, the woman who defied judges and shook up the world of figure skating.

French figure skating pioneer discusses her polarizing career

French figure skater Surya Bonaly joins the latest edition of CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast. (Reuters)

French figure skater Surya Bonaly's career truly is the stuff of legend. 

She was the first woman ever to perform back flips in competition — the jump remains illegal to this day. Her gymnastic virtuosity set her apart from her contemporaries, as did her principled defiance at unfair judging. When she handed back her silver medal at the 1994 world championships, the gesture was compared to the raised fists in Mexico City in 1968.

Bonaly revolutionized her sport, yet never considered herself to be a rebel. She quietly did what she thought was right and let the figure skating world create its own uproar.

A classic Bonaly performance delighted fans and brought entire arenas to their feet, but left judges bound by the rules to award relatively low scores compared to the audience's boisterous reactions.

As Player's Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis tells Bonaly, seeing her performances literally made the younger Bucsis decide to become an Olympian. And Bonaly continues to nurture new talent to this day, coaching elite skaters in her second home in the U.S.

Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, the POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to all three seasons, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?