Bonaly – what does Radiolab think?

Please take time to watch this video:


I was left in awe by the way she glided across the ice, especially performing her famous Bonaly Flip which was the one and only time she performed such move deemed illegal in the nature of the sport.


But who is this person? Why is she important? Before I begin, let me quickly summarise who she is.



Her name is Surya Bonaly, a former professional figure skater who dominated the 80’s and 90’s. Bonaly was born in Nice, France, 15th December, 1973. At 18 months old, Surya was adopted by Georges Bonaly, an architect for the government, and Suzanne Bonaly, a physical education teacher. During her childhood, she grew up watching her mother teach on the ice rink, which eventually led to Surya picking up the skating habits, eventually becoming a sporting figure.


After listening to Radiolab, the first thing that came into mind is whether her race has something to do with not being able to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Firstly, during the time, she is the only black person in the entire sports as claimed by the podcast. Secondly, what she introduced to the sport is something quite phenomenal. But when she shared equal points with Yuko Sato during the 1993/94 winter Olympics, an event where history can be made in the entire sports, Surya Bonaly still did not win. Why is that?


Art is the major reason why Surya Bonaly was denied of her gold medal. During the Radiolab interview, Tracie Hunte claims that the reason why she did not win gold was not because of racism, but because she was not “artsy” enough.

If an artist’s main agenda is to portray the inner thought and passion, then isn’t Bonaly allowed to portray the way she wants to portray it? If Bonaly lost because her performance was not graceful, or soft, or sweet like Sato then does that not defeat the concept of artistry, more particular: art? Is art not subjective? There is no denying Hunte’s statement, but let us also consider the fact that it might be due to her biological race. Bonaly is not built like the rest of the figure skaters. She is not your gentle looking princess. But what does her build have to do with the sports she is partaking in? Her built is inherent, unchangeable, so if the reason for not winning a goal medal is due to being more athletic (which her body is clearly built for) then maybe there is an issue of race or discrimination. This particular event raises so many question, but what is also prominent is whether the fact that the reason why Bonaly never won a gold medal during the championship was because she did not represent the contemporary popular culture of the sport.


When we look back at the Radiolab interview, I remember recalling that Didier Galhaguet claiming that Bonaly was born somewhere just outside of “Madagascar” and that she “never cut her hair since her birth”. These words were said because it is what the media “wanted to hear” he stated. Please note that these statements are 100% false and was admitted by her coach and parents, but was only said to help stir media attention and gain popularity. Bonaly’s biological background therefore can be seen as a form of entertainment in the popular culture. I am quite sure that the audience during the time reacted more to the colour of her skin and how she does her flips, not considering the actual nature of the sports. During the Radiolab interview, the interviewer responded by claiming that everyone was “excited” to watch Bonaly’s performance as she was black and does these “crazy flips”. This suggests that the popular culture is consumed by her being the only black sheep in the flock of white sheep in the sports. Because of this, it takes away the attention of her not winning a gold medal during the Olympics, therefore, Bonaly’s entire career can be seen as entertainment of the media for the popular masses.








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