A first enthusiasm for ice-skating as a competitive spectacle was, for very many in the 1970s, lit by the brilliance of John Curry. The first Briton to win an Olympic gold medal for men’s figure-skating, he was different. His artistry helped to transform the style of the sport, bringing to the rink a combination of skating ability, ballet and modern dance beyond that previously seen.
Guided by coach Arnold Gewrschwiler (and later in the USA by Carlo Fussi), he developed supreme skills in jumps, spins and free-skating performed to music. He became British champion in 1970. His triumphant year on the world stage was 1976 when he became the first man ever to win the European, Olympic and World titles in one season. He reached his peak at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. His blend of graceful athletic strength and musical interpretation in the free dance led to the gold medal.
It was Britain’s first medal of any kind at the Winter Olympics for more than a decade and first ever gold for figure-skating. Later that year, at Gothenburg, he won the World Championships - the first British man to do so for nearly four decades. After his unparalleled year of competitive success, Curry turned professional and formed a new kind of ice-show, a theatre of ice and dance. In a sad ending, John Curry died of an AIDS-related heart attack aged just 44.
A sculpture, commissioned by the British National Skating Association from American sculptor Stanley Taub, is a memorial to his skating genius. First unveiled at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham, it now stands, if a little awkwardly placed, in the reception area at Ice Sheffield. Capturing Curry’s elegant arm movement, it is a lasting reminder of a performer whose balletic style changed figure skating.