The king of the triple axel
One of the world’s leading figure skaters in the 1980s, Canada’s Brian Orser won two Olympic silver medals before becoming a coach and choreographer and helping South Korea’s Yu-Na Kim win gold at Vancouver 2010.
Born to skate
“I love skating, I love performance and I love perfection.” Brian Orser has stayed true to those words throughout his career, first as a figure skater and latterly as a coach. Born in Belleville, Ontario, Orser took to the ice at a very early age, like all true Canadians, though it was not the national sport of ice-hockey that attracted his interest. Urged on by his mother JoAnne, who found him a young coach by the name of Doug Leigh, he developed his talent as an ice dancer. The coach and his young prodigy worked together through to the end of Orser’s amateur career. In 1979, he won the national junior title, becoming in the process the first skater in the world to land a triple axel in his age group.
An Olympic first
In making the step up to senior competition, Orser performed more triple axels than any figure skater anywhere, and even began to string them together in his routines. Lying a lowly seventh after the compulsory figures at Sarajevo 1984, he recovered to take the silver medal behind the USA’s Scott Hamilton after landing the triple axel in the free routine, becoming the first man to perform the manoeuvre at the Olympic Games. The Canadian finished second to Hamilton again at the World Championships that year, and would have won both titles but for his low scores in the compulsory, which was eventually removed from all international men’s and women’s competitions in 1990.
Brian versus Brian
Two years his junior, America’s Brian Boitano would then emerge as Orser’s main adversary, triggering a rivalry that was dubbed “The Battle of the Brians”. At the 1985 Worlds the Canadian pipped Boitano to the silver, only for the American to gain revenge the following year by taking the world title, with Orser second once again. The gold finally came Orser’s way in 1987, when he beat Boitano into second place. The Canadian was his country’s flag bearer at the Calgary Games the following year, one of the highlights of which was another gripping duel with Boitano, who led after the compulsory figures, with Orser then winning the short programme to leave the Olympic title hinging on the free skate. The two performed brilliantly, the American landing eight triple jumps to the Canadian’s seven, which included a double triple axel. Thanks to his superior technical score, however, the gold went to Boitano by a mere 0.1 of a point, leaving Orser with yet another silver medal.
A move into coaching
After turning professional Orser toured with Stars on Ice until 2007. In the meantime he moved into coaching and choreography and from 2006 he devoted himself full time to coaching the promising South Korean skater Yu-Na Kim, who became world No1 and claimed Olympic gold in thrilling style at Vancouver 2010.