Does being a figure skating world champion boost your odds at an Olympic gold medal?


Coming to the Olympic stage as the reigning world champion is surely a confidence boost for athletes; however, Olympic gold comes down to which athlete is the best on that day. Figure skaters have to be good for two days, their short programs and free skates. dug into where the previous year’s world champion landed if they skated at the Olympics. For example: At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Yuna Kim of South Korea was the reigning world champion, but Adelina Sotnikova from Russia took the gold. Kim took home the silver medal. But in 2010, Kim came to the Games as the reigning world champion and won gold in Vancouver.

There are a few caveats to the pseudo-investigation, though. There were no world championships held in 1919 (canceled on account of World War I), so the 1920 Olympics weren’t a part of the data. And in 1907, a world championships was held, but only for men’s and ladies’ events.

In short, the value of a world champion’s gold medal heading into the Olympics depends on which figure skating discipline you look at. Check out the discipline-by-discipline breakdown, below.Jump to a section:LADIES’ | MEN’S | PAIRS’ | ICE DANCE


Ladies who were world champions the year before the Olympic Games went on to win Olympic gold medals the following year 17 out of 23 times, or about 74 percent. In the six cases where the world champion did not win the gold medal, they still came away with either a silver or bronze medal.

The first Olympic gold medalist in the ladies’ event, Madge Syers of Great Britain, came to the 1908 Games as the 1907 world champion.

Sonja Henie of Norway, who won 10 world titles and three gold medals across her illustrious career, kicked off a streak of world-champions-turned-Olympic-gold-medalists that lasted from 1924 to 1972.

U.S. ladies who were a part of this streak include Tenley Albright, 1955 world champion and 1956 Olympic gold medalist; Carol Heiss, 1959 world champion and 1960 Olympic gold medalist; and Peggy Fleming, 1967 world champion and 1968 Olympic gold medalist.

The most recent ladies skater to complete the double was Yuna Kim, who was world champion in 2009 and became the Olympic gold medalist in 2010.

The most recent U.S. ladies’ skater to do this was Tara Lipinski, who was the youngest-ever world champion in 1997 and subsequently the youngest-ever Olympic gold medalist in an individual event at the 1998 Nagano Games.

No Russian has ever completed the feat, as Adelina Sotnikova was the first Russian to become an Olympic champion in 2014. Yevgenia Medvedeva certainly has a shot at it, as the reigning world champion (she won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017).

Another former world champion is still in the conversation for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Italy’s Carolina Kostner was 2012’s champion and won a bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics.

Plus, Worlds medalists from the past several years are expected to contend for the podium in PyeongChang: Japan’s Satoko Miyahara (silver in 2015), plus Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond (silver in 2017) and Gabrielle Daleman (bronze in 2017).

The chart below details which ladies’ skaters won world titles the year before the Olympics, and who went on to become the Olympic gold medalist. Bold indicates a successful world/Olympics double.

World ChampionshipsOlympic Games
2017: Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS)2018: Decided Feb. 21 and 23, 2018
2013: Yuna Kim (KOR)2014: Adelina Sotnikova (RUS)
2009: Yuna Kim (KOR)2010: Yuna Kim (KOR)
2005: Irina Slutskaya (RUS)2006: Shizuka Arakawa (JPN)
2001: Michelle Kwan (USA)2002: Sarah Hughes (USA)
1997: Tara Lipinski (USA)1998: Tara Lipinski (USA)
1993: Oksana Baiul (UKR)1994: Oksana Baiul (UKR)
1991: Kristi Yamaguchi (USA)1992: Kristi Yamaguchi (USA)
1987: Katarina Witt (GDR) 1988: Katarina Witt (GDR)
1983: Rosalyn Sumners (USA)1984: Katarina Witt (GDR)
1979: Linda Fratianne (USA)1980: Annette Potzsch (GDR)
1975: Dianne de Leeuw (NED)1976: Dorothy Hamill (USA)
1971: Beatrix Schuba (AUT)1972: Beatrix Schuba (AUT)
1967: Peggy Fleming (USA)1968: Peggy Fleming (USA)
1963: Sjoukje Dijkstra (NED)1964: Sjoukje Dijkstra (NED)
1959: Carol Heiss (USA)1960: Carol Heiss (USA)
1955: Tenley Albright (USA)1956: Tenley Albright (USA)
1951: Jeannette Altwegg (GBR)1952: Jeannette Altwegg (GBR)
1947: Barbara Ann Scott (CAN)1948: Barbara Ann Scott (CAN)
1935: Sonja Henie (NOR)1936: Sonja Henie (NOR)
1931: Sonja Henie (NOR)1932: Sonja Henie (NOR)
1927: Sonja Henie (NOR)1928: Sonja Henie (NOR)
1923: Herma Szabo (AUT)1924: Herma Szabo-Plank (AUT)
1919: no championships held1920: Magda Mauroy-Julin (SWE)
1907: Madge Syers (GBR)1908: Madge Syers (GBR)

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Men who were world champions the year before the Olympic Games went on to win Olympic gold medals the following year nine out of a possible 23 times, or about 39 percent. In cases where the world champion did not become the Olympic gold medalist the following year, the world champion landed on the podium 10 out of the remaining 14 cases. This happened at six consecutive Games, from 1988 to 2006 to big names such as Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko (2002), Switzerland’s Stephane Lambiel (2006), and Canadians Brian Orser (1988), Kurt Browning (1992, 1994), Elvis Stojko (1998) and it also happened to Patrick Chan (2014). Which leads to another question: Are Canadian men’s skaters cursed?

Among the final four Olympic Games not discussed: the reigning world champion did not participate at the Games two times, and the other two times, the world champion missed the Olympic podium entirely.

The U.S. has the most success accomplishing this feat, beginning in 1952 with Dick Button’s second Olympic gold. In 1956, Hayes Alan Jenkins took the gold after being the 1955 world champion; four years later, his brother, David Jenkins, matched the feat. Scott Hamilton continued the U.S.’ success, winning gold at Worlds in 1983 and following that up with gold at the 1984 Games in Sarajevo.

The most recent man to do this – from the U.S. or otherwise – is Evan Lysacek. He was the 2009 world champion and became the Olympic gold medalist a year later in Vancouver.

Austria’s Karl Schafer did it twice: he was the 1931 world champion and the 1932 Olympic gold medalist. Then, he was the 1935 world champion and a second Olympic gold followed the next year.

The first man to do this was Sweden’s Ulrich Salchow, who won the 1907 world championships title and the Olympic gold medal in 1908. The Salchow jump is named for him.

Looking ahead to PyeongChang, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is under significant pressure. He’s the 2014 Olympic gold medalist – the first ever in men’s skating for Japan – as well as the reigning 2017 world champion.

Past world champions, such as Spain’s Javier Fernandez (2015, 2016) and Canada’s Patrick Chan (2011, 2012, and 2013) will also be part of the podium conversation for 2018. Other Worlds medalists will challenge Hanyu, as well: Denis Ten of Kazakhstan (bronze in 2015), Boyang Jin of China (bronze in 2016 and 2017), and Japan’s Shoma Uno (silver in 2017).

The chart below details which men’s skaters won world titles the year before the Olympics, and who went on to become the Olympic gold medalist. Bold indicates a successful world/Olympics double.

World ChampionshipsOlympic Games
2017: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)2018: Decided Feb. 16-17, 2018
2013: Patrick Chan (CAN)2014: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
2009: Evan Lysacek (USA)2010: Evan Lysacek (USA)
2005: Stephane Lambiel (SUI)2006: Yevgeny Plushenko (RUS)
2001: Yevgeny Plushenko (RUS)2002: Alexei Yagudin (RUS)
1997: Elvis Stojko (CAN)1998: Ilia Kulik (RUS)
1993: Kurt Browning (CAN)1994: Alexei Urmanov (RUS)
1991: Kurt Browning (CAN)1992: Viktor Petrenko (EUN)
1987: Brian Orser (CAN)1988: Brian Boitano (USA)
1983: Scott Hamilton (USA)1984: Scott Hamilton (USA)
1979: Vladimir Kovalev (URS)1980: Robin Cousins (GBR)
1975: Sergei Volkov (URS)1976: John Curry (GBR)
1971: Ondrej Nepela (CZE)1972: Ondrej Nepela (CZE)
1967: Emmerich Danzer (AUT)1968: Wolfgang Schwarz (AUT)
1963: Donald McPherson (CAN)1964: Manfred Schelldorfer (GER)
1959: David Jenkins (USA)1960: David Jenkins (USA)
1955: Hayes Alan Jenkins (USA) 1956: Hayes Alan Jenkins (USA)
1951: Dick Button (USA)1952: Dick Button (USA)
1947: Hans Gerschwiler (SUI)1948: Dick Button (USA)
1935: Karl Schafer (AUT)1936: Karl Schafer (AUT)
1931: Karl Schafer (AUT) 1932: Karl Schafer (AUT)
1927: Willy Bockli (AUT)1928: Gillis Grafstrom (SWE)
1923: Fritz Kachler (AUT)1924: Gillis Grafstrom (SWE)
1919: no championships held1920: Gillis Grafstrom (SWE)
1907: Ulrich Salchow (SWE)1908: Ulrich Salchow (SWE)

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Pairs who were world champions the year before the Olympics went on to capture Olympic gold medals outright the following year 11 out of a possible 22 times, or 50 percent. The 1908 and 1920 Games were not included because there was no world championship event in pairs the year prior.

Another caveat is that Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were the 2001 world champions and were awarded silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake Games. However, after a judging controversy was unmasked, they were elevated to co-gold medalists alongside Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.

In that case, world champion pairs teams won the following year’s Olympic gold medals 12 out of 22 times, or approximately 54 percent.

Most recently, this feat was accomplished by Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, the 2013 world champions and 2014 Olympic gold medalists. Volosozhar and Trankov’s Sochi win was made event sweeter, as they were also a part of the gold medal-winning inaugural team event in front of a home Russian crowd. Plus, their victory was a restoration to power for Russian pairs, who won 12 straight pairs gold medals from 1964 to 2006, before being shut out of the pairs’ podium entirely in 2010.

Some notable Russian pairs that were part of this 12-Games dominating streak include the 1964 and 1968 Olympic champions Liudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, a.k.a. “the Protopopovs;” Irina Rodnina won three Olympic golds from 1972 to 1980 with two partners, Alexei Ulanov and Alexandr Zaitsev; and Ekaterina Gordeyeva and Sergei Grinkov in 1988 and 1994.

In cases where the reigning world champions did not become the following year’s Olympic gold medalists – the remaining 10 times – nine of those pairs still came away with a medal each time, either silver or bronze. The remaining case was 1979 world champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner from the U.S. They were set to compete at the 1980 Lake Placid Games, but Gardner sustained an injury during training and the pair was forced to withdraw.

The U.S. has produced two world champion pairs teams: Babilonia and Gardner (1979) and Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy (1950). The U.S. has never had a pairs team win an Olympic gold medal.

2017 Worlds pairs’ champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong could have a shot at 2018 Olympic gold, becoming China’s second pairs’ gold medalists. There are other recent Worlds champions still in the conversation for PyeongChang, though.

Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 and plan to retire after the 2018 Games. Germany’s Aliona Savchenko won five world titles with former partner Robin Szolkowy. He retired, but Savchenko is still competing with new partner Bruno Massot – they won a bronze medals at Worlds in 2016 and silver in 2017.

But you can’t count Russia out when it comes to pairs’ skating. Sochi Olympics silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov from Russia won silver at Worlds in 2014, too, and Russian newcomers Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took bronze at Worlds in 2017.

The chart below details which pairs’ skaters won world titles the year before the Olympics, and who went on to become the Olympic gold medalist. Bold indicates a successful world/Olympics double.

World ChampionshipsOlympic Games
2017: Sui/ Han (CHN)2018: Decided Feb. 14-15, 2018
2013: Volosozhar/ Trankov (RUS)2014: Volosozhar/ Trankov (RUS)
2009: Savchenko/ Szolkowy (GER)2010: Chen/ Zhao (CHN)
2005: Totmianina/ Marinin (RUS) 2006: Totmianina/ Marinin (RUS)
2001: Salé/ Pelletier (CAN)2002: Salé/ Pelletier (CAN)

2002: Berezhnaya/ Sikharulidze (RUS)

1997: Wotzel/ Steuer (GER)1998: Kazakova/ Dmitriev (RUS)
1993: Brasseur/ Eisler (CAN)1994: Gordeyeva/ Grinkov (EUN)
1991: Mishkutenkov/ Dmitriev (URS)1992: Mishkutenkov/ Dmitriev (URS)
1987: Gordeyeva/ Grinkov (URS)1988: Gordeyeva/ Grinkov (URS)
1983: Valova/ Vasiliev (URS) 1984: Valova/ Vasiliev (URS)
1979: Babilonia/ Gardner (USA)1980: Rodnina/ Zaitsev (URS)
1975: Rodnina/ Zaitsev (URS)1976: Rodnina/ Zaitsev (URS)
1971: Rodnina/ Ulanov (URS)1972: Rodnina/ Ulanova (URS)
1967: Belousova/ Protopopov (URS)1968: Belousova/ Protopopov (URS)
1963: Kilius/ Baumler (GER)1964: Belousova/ Protopopov (URS)
1959: Wagner/ Paul (CAN)1960: Wagner/ Paul (CAN)
1955: Dafoe/ Bowden (CAN)1956: Schwarz/ Oppelt (AUT)
1951: Falk/ Falk (FRG) 1952: Falk/ Falk
1947: Lannoy/ Baugniet (BEL)1948: Lannoy/ Baugniet (BEL)
1935: Rotter/ Szollas (HUN)1936: Herber/ Baier (GER)
1931: Rotter/ Szollas (HUN)1932: Brunet/ Brunet (FRA)
1927: Szabo/ Wrede (AUT)1928: Joly/ Brunet (FRA)
1923: Jakobsson/ Jakobsson (FIN)1924: Engelmann/ Berger (AUT)
1919: no championships held1920: Jakobsson/ Jakobsson (FIN)
1907: pairs not contested1908: Hubler/ Burger (GER)

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Ice Dance

Ice dance has only been an official Olympic discipline since 1976, though its world championship history predates that by more than two decades.

Dance couples who were world champions the previous year won the Olympic title the next year six out of 11 possible times, or about 54 percent. Most recently, this Worlds/Olympics double was completed by Team USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Another of the most notable names to complete this feat are Great Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who won the world title in 1983 and Olympic gold in 1984.

When Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won their Olympic title at home in Vancouver in 2010, they had never won a Worlds title. They continued their season past those Games to win Worlds gold in 2010. Since then, they’ve added world titles in 2012 and 2017 to their resume. With their 2017 victory, they can be the seventh team and first Canadians to win Olympic gold the year after taking a world title.

In cases where the reigning world champion did not win Olympic gold – the remaining five cases – each team ended up either claiming silver (three times) or bronze medals (two times).

Several former world champion teams and medalists are in the conversation for the PyeongChang Olympics. French couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 before training partners Virtue and Moir returned to the sport after a two-year break. Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy won the world title in 2014 and have remained in the top tier of the sport since.

Two U.S. teams with Worlds medals on their resume will also make a push for the podium in PyeongChang. Maia Shibutani and brother Alex Shibutani own three Worlds medals (bronze in 2011, silver in 2016, and bronze in 2017) while Madison Chock and Evan Bates have two (silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016).

Plus, the international scene includes Worlds medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada (silver in 2014) and Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (bronze in 2013).

The chart below details which ice dancers won world titles the year before the Olympics, and who went on to become the Olympic gold medalist. Bold indicates a successful world/Olympics double.

World ChampionshipsOlympic Games
2017: Virtue/ Moir (CAN)2018: Decided Feb. 19-20, 2018
2013: Davis/ White (USA)2014: Davis/ White (USA)
2009: Domnina/ Shabalin (RUS)2010: Virtue/ Moir (CAN)
2005: Navka/ Kostomarov (RUS)2006: Navka/ Kostomarov (RUS)
2001: Fusar-Poli/ Margaglio (ITA)2002: Anissina/ Pierzerat (FRA)
1997: Gritchuk/ Platov (RUS)1998: Gritchuk/ Platov (RUS)
1993: Usova/ Zhulin (RUS)1994: Gritchuk/ Platov (RUS)
1991: Duchesnay/ Duchesnay (FRA)1992: Klimova/ Ponomarenko (EUN)
1987: Bestemianova/ Bukin (URS)1988: Bestemianova/ Bukin (URS)
1983: Torvill/ Dean (GBR)1984: Torvill/ Dean (GBR)
1979: Linichuk/ Karponosov (URS)1980: Linichuk/ Karponosov (URS)
1975: Moiseeva/ Mininkov (URS)1976: Pakhomova/ Gorshkov (URS)

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