Perhaps one of the most spectacular moments in sport is watching a figure skater defy gravity and perform elegant movements on the ice. Between the jumps, turns, and spins, these people seem to break the laws of physics (or enforce them, depending on your scientific knowledge). With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, we’re paying more attention to figure skaters than ever before. Figure skating is a craft that requires hard work, dedication, long hours of practice, many sacrifices, sweat, tears and sometimes blood. If one is to become a famous figure skater and desires to make a decent living out of the sport, years of training and a die-hard passion is a must.
The richest figure skaters had hugely successful competitive careers that included, but of course weren’t limited to, the Winter Olympics. It seems that to become truly wealthy from the sport, these skaters must first prove themselves on the ice and trounce the competition. Most skaters start young and begin competing in large venues against other countries in their mid-to-late teens. But even after the competitive years are over, many figure skaters will continue to tour in shows and perform for television specials, movies, and more.
Competing in the Winter Olympics definitely gives skaters the right kind of exposure on the road to gaining celebrity status. Of course, in the world of figure skating, the top athletes are already stars. But the attention, status and glamour of appearing on an internationally televised sport, competing against the best of the best around the world, can shoot these athletes into the wealthy world of endorsements and celebrity appearances. Don’t think that competitive skating is an easy door to stardom, though:In fact, one wrong move and careers can be forever ruined. We’ve collated information on the richest and / or most famous figure skaters in the world, and their net worths. From the tragic, to the startling, to the inspiring these ten stories reveal a dramatic world beyond the prettiness we witness on the ice…
10. Tonya Harding – $10,000
Tonya Harding is a two-time Olympian who was born on November 12th, 1970, and began skating at the age of three. When she was 12 years old, she landed her first triple lutz, and those around her knew that she was destined to do great things. She began to work her way up in competitive skating in the 1980’s and she made waves when she won Skate America twice. Harding earned celebrity status in the figure skating world when she became the first woman to complete a triple axel in a short program, two triple axels in a single competition, and the first ever to complete a triple axel combination with a double toe loop. At this point, Harding was making money and gaining recognition for her impressive talents on the ice. But that would all change, when the world came to know Harding by name because of her association with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 US Figure Skating Championship. Tonya’s attack left Kerrigan unable to skate the event which Harding would go on to win. The reason for her relatively tiny net worth compared to other high-profile skaters? The USFSA stripped her of her title and banned her as a skater and coach from future events for her involvement. She’s gone on to have a varied career; a sex tape, a reality TV stint and a boxing career have kept this former skating star in the spotlight.
9. Tara Lipinski – $4 Million
Tara Lipinski is known as the youngest World and National Champion as well as the youngest person to ever win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1998. Lipinski had accomplished so much by the age of 15 that she has since retired from competitive figure skating. Lipinski began her skating career as a roller skater at the age of three, and then began figure skating (on ice) at the age of six. In 1994, the world began to take notice of the young skater after she won the 1994 US Olympic Festival competition. She received much criticism for retiring from competitive skating in 1998 due to the fact that she was still so young and had a potentially huge career ahead of her.
8. Dorothy Hamill – $5 Million
Dorothy Hamill is iconic in figure skating in many ways, and her passion and determination for the sport led her to be called, “America’s Sweetheart.” She is the 1976 Olympic and World champion in the ladies singles category, and she also sported a haircut that became an instant hit (think “The Rachel” for figure skating). But not only has Dorothy Hamill earned competitive awards, she also earned a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance in Romeo & Juliet On Ice in 1983. Even though she’s not competing anymore, she is still very involved in public appearances. In 2007, she published her autobiography called, “A Skating Life: My Story” and in 2013, she was the newest contestant on Dancing With the Stars.
7. Nancy Kerrigan – $8 Million
Her iconic cries of “Why, why, why” have been immortalized as part of one of the most media-crazed controversies to have ever occured in the world of sports. In 1994, just before the US Nationals and weeks before the Winter Olympics in Norway, Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee, an act orchestrated by competitor Tonya Harding’s husband at the time. Kerrigan began skating at the age of six, and even at a young age, proved that she had much potential in the world of figure skating. Despite the setback from the “whack heard around the world”, Kerrigan won the silver medal at the Olympic Games, and signed onto numerous sponsorship contracts that were worth millions.
6. Michelle Kwan – $8 Million
If there was anyone who was the personification of tenacity, it’s Michelle Kwan. In 1998, she was rival to Tara Lipinski, and took the silver at the Winter Games that year. Four years later, Kwan returned to the 2002 Winter Games and took the Bronze medal. Kwan is the daughter of Hong Kong immigrants, and she began skating when she was five after she watched her brother play ice hockey. She started competing a year later and won her first competition. In 1994, she finished 8th at the World Championships and earned a spot in the 1994 Winter Games as an alternate at the young age of 13. Even though Kwan stepped away from figure skating in 2006 after a severe groin injury, and switched her focus to her studies, her name is still known in the industry and during the 2010 Winter Games, she was a TV correspondent.
5. Johnny Weir – $10 Million
With the current controversy surrounding Sochi and LGBT rights in Russia – where the government enforces anti-gay policies – openly gay figure skater Johnny Weir has been criticized by LGBT rights activists due to his continued backing of the Winter Olympic Games. His flamboyant lifestyle caught the attention of millions, making him an icon among the LGBT community as well an in-demand personality for television appearances and endorsements on a regular basis. He started skating at the age of 12, and is a 2008 World bronze medalist and three-time US National champion. Weir’s eye-catching lifestyle will certainly continue to draw attention to him, as, doubtless, will his skating skills; but the current controversy may well taint his persona in the media.
4. Kim Yuna – $14 Million
Recently named by Forbes as one of the wealthiest athletes, Kim Yuna is a South Korean figure skater and 2010 Olympic champion. During the 2010 Winter Games, Yuna earned the highest score to have ever been awarded to any figure skater, securing her the gold medal. With the 2014 Winter Games coming up, all eyes are on the 23 year old skater to see if she will be able to defend her title. In October of 2011, she took a break from competing for two years after a heavy workload that had intensified since 2006. Upon her return, she won first place at the 2013 ISU Figure Skating World Championship, which is a positive omen for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games.
3. Brian Boitano – $18 Million
Brian Boitano was born in 1963 and is the champion of the 1988 Winter Games, World Champion of 1986 and 1988, and the US National Champion for 1985-1988. In 1993, he came out of competitive retirement and competed in the 1994 Olympics where he placed in sixth. After his time in the world of competition, Boitano became a household name and the subject of numerous pop culture references. He was the center of the iconic South Park song, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” and has recently created media frenzy once again by coming out as gay, right before the Olympics in Sochi.
2. Kristi Yamaguchi – $18 Million
Kristi Yamaguchi won the hearts of millions with her smile and determination on the ice. Believe it or not, Yamaguchi began skating at the age of six as a part of her physiotherapy – because she was born with club feet. Another interesting fact about this world-renowned skater: She won her first competition as a pairs skater alongside Rudy Galindo in 1986. In 1992, she was the Olympic champion in the ladies’ singles category and added her gold medal to a string of championship titles won in 1991 and 1992. But what makes her net worth so much higher than other skaters? She has published four books, made TV and movie appearances, and was the sixth season champion on Dancing With the Stars.
1. Scott Hamilton – $30 Million
From performing death defying back flips to battling cancer, Scott Hamilton (born 1958) certainly is loved by millions around the world. He has retired from figure skating, but has had a thriving career in the sport and has amassed millions. He won four consecutive US championships, four consecutive World championships, and the 1984 Olympic gold medal. In total, Hamilton has won 15 consecutive skating championships, making him an icon in the world of figure skating and sports. In 1999, after battling cancer, Hamilton started the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative. He had a rough start to life as he suffered from a condition known as Shwachman syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by limited nutrient absorption and a shorter stature. Hamilton participated in many winter-type sports before finally settling down to his successful career as a competitive figure skater at the tender age of 11.