Figure Skating 101 - Nov. 23

All about back flips on ice skates

Michael Weiss performs a back flip in an exhibition at the 2006 U.S. Championships.
Michael Weiss performs a back flip in an exhibition at the 2006 U.S. Championships. (Getty Images)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(11/23/2007) - Every week and figure skating expert Jo Ann Schneider Farris take new fans on a guided tour through the ins-and-outs of competitive skating.

This week, we look at back flips on the ice.

Many ice skating fans may remember watching the Olympics in 1998 and seeing French figure skater Surya Bonaly do a back flip during her long program. She landed that back flip on one foot. She didn't receive an Olympic medal, but left her mark anyway.

Back flips are not legal ice skating moves, but Bonaly did one at the Olympics anyway. Why would she have done an illegal move if she knew it would affect her score? Many believe she did the back flip since she knew she had no chance of winning a medal, but she wanted to be remembered somehow. Her back flip definitely accomplished that.

First Back Flips on Ice

The first back flips ever done on the ice were performed by Holiday on Ice skating star Skippy Baxter in the 1940's. Baxter's flip was recreated in 1980, when Charles Schulz' cartoon character Snoopy did back flips on the ice in a "Peanuts" television special.

Only One Legal Back Flip

There was only one legal back flip ever done at an official figure skating competition. That one was done by 1976 U.S. men's champion Terry Kubicka. He performed a back flip on the ice at the 1976 World Figure Skating Championships. Right after he introduced the move, the International Skating Union banned the back flip from all future figure skating competitions.

More Back Flips Done By Famous Figure Skaters

After Terry Kubicka introduced the back flip, the next figure skater to do the move was 1981 World Professional Figure Skating Champion, Scott Cramer. Cramer kept a record of every back flip he did -- a total of 10,032 of them during his skating career! After Scott Cramer, another Scott came along and made back flips on ice skates famous again. 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton did back flip after back flip on skates, and the move became known as one of his trademarks.

More recently, at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships, men's silver medalist Ryan Bradley celebrated his victory with a one foot-landed back flip on the ice before a cheering crowd in Spokane, Wash. Will he do another one in 2008?

Happy Skating!

For more information on the fundamentals of figure skating visit the U.S. Figure Skating's Basic Skills Program.