Monday, December 18, 2017

Happy Birthday to World Champion Figure Skater, Two-Time Olympic Silver Medalist Brian Orser


Brian Orser was born today, December 18, 1961. He is a Canadian former competitive and professional figure skater. He is the 1984 and 1988 Olympic silver medalist, 1987 World champion and eight-time (1981-88) Canadian national champion. At the 1988 Winter Olympics, the rivalry between Orser and American figure skater Brian Boitano, who were the two favorites to win the gold medal, captured media attention and was described as the "Battle of the Brians."

Brian Orser was born in Belleville, Ontario. He grew up in Penetanguishene. Orser won his first national title on the novice level in 1977. The following season, he went to Junior Worlds and placed 4th, behind eventual rival Brian Boitano. He added a second national title, this time at the junior level, to his resume in 1979.

In 1980, he moved up to the senior level. He won the bronze medal at his first senior international, the Vienna Cup, and then placed 4th at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. That was the last time he would place off the podium at the national level.

In the 1980-1981 post-Olympic season, Orser began making his mark on the skating world. He won the silver at the Nebelhorn Trophy, placed 6th at Skate Canada, and then won his first of eight National titles. In his debut at Worlds, he placed 6th. The next season, he won his first medal at Skate Canada and moved up to 4th at Worlds. He won his first World medal in 1983, a bronze, positioning him well for the 1983-1984 Olympic season.

Orser became the second man to land the difficult triple Axel (three rotations in the air) when he performed it in winning his Canadian junior title in 1979, at a time when few senior skaters were even attempting it. Over the next few years, Orser performed the jump more frequently and more consistently than any other skater of the time. 


Orser became the first man to land the triple axel at the Olympics when he landed it in his free skate at the 1984 Winter Olympics. He won the silver medal behind Scott Hamilton, and then won the silver at 1984 Worlds, again behind Hamilton. Only Orser's low placements in the compulsory figures prevented him from winning both titles.

In the 1984-1985 season, after Hamilton's retirement, Orser was seemingly poised to become the dominant champion. However, he had an imperfect worlds, and placed second to Alexander Fadeev, who also had the triple axel in his repertoire. Orser resolved to begin including two axels, not just one, in his free skate, in order to give himself an advantage over Fadeev. He finally won Worlds in 1987. At that competition he became the first skater at the World Championships to land two triple axels in the free skate and three in the same competition.

Going into the 1988 Olympics, Orser worked with a sports psychologist on visual imagery. He and Brian Boitano were thrust into the Battle of the Brians, each being the other's main rival. Orser was undefeated in the 1986-1987 season and had not lost a competition since losing to Boitano at the 1986 Worlds.  He placed 3rd in compulsory figures segment of the competition, 1st in the short program, and second in the free skating, winning the silver medal overall. Brian Boitano won the gold medal, defeating Orser by .10 of a point.



He won the silver again at Worlds in 1988, after winning the free skate. Orser then turned professional in 1988 and skated with Stars on Ice for almost 20 years. As a coach, he has led both Kim Yuna (2010) and Yuzuru Hanyu (2014) to Olympic gold. He also coached Javier Fernández to the 2015 and 2016 World titles. He is the skating director at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club.

Orser is openly gay. He was forced to reveal his sexuality in November 1998, when he lost a legal battle to prevent public disclosure when an ex-partner sued him for palimony. Orser initially feared the revelation of being gay would ruin his career, but he has since embraced support from other skaters and the public. Since 2008, he has been in a relationship with Rajesh Tiwari, a director of The Brian Orser foundation.

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