It may seem a bit odd to include on a list about the best skaters of all time an athlete born in 1994, but it’s undeniably that Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu has already broken ten world records and has the combined highest score of any ice skater ever, all at the tender age of 22. In addition to that impressive list of accomplishments he also holds the record of being the youngest ever athlete to win the Olympic title, breaking the record set by Dick Button all the way back in 1948. With many years of competition ahead of him still, he’s surely one of the greatest.
2. Herma Szabo
Born in 1902 this Austrian skater won the first ever Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924 at the age of 22. Not only was she an accomplished and hugely decorated singles skater—she won five world titles—she also won two in the pairs category, back to back, in 1925 and 1926. Although tied in the women’s singles with American Michelle Kwan her records have yet to be broken.
3. Scott Hamilton
Hamilton is probably best known in the United States, where he was born and won the US Championship four consecutive years from 1981 to 1984 as well as the renown Skate America competition three times. However, his achievements aren’t confided to the US as we also won gold medal in the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Well-known for his crowd-pleasing backflip, it’s impressive he was able to raise to such heights having only begun ice skating at the age of 13.
So beloved and honoured was Schäfer in his native Austria that from 1974 to 2008 there was a prestigious ice skating competition that was named after him held every year in Vienna. With seven World Figure Skating Championships to his name between 1930 and 1936 alone and with two Olympic Championships in the same time frame, it’s difficult to find an equal. Although less as a swimmer he was still good enough to compete in the summer Olympics as well (a handy skill in case that ice ever broke!)
5. Ulrich Salchow
No list of the best ice skaters would be complete without Swedish Ulrich Salchow. So prominent was he that to this day. By 1911 he had won ten World Figure Skating Championships—a feat so daunting that the record has now stood for more than a century (although it must be noted that he shares the record with fellow Scandinavian, Norwegian Sonja Henie). His talents were so admired that many common moves still bear his name.