Sport: Figure Skating
Country: United States
Bobek's fondness for skating started when she was three. She first came to national prominence by placing 2nd at the novice level of the U.S. Championships in 1989; Bobek was 11 years old. In the next few seasons, she worked her way up the competitive rankings at the national level. She was known as an athletic jumper and a charismatic performer, but an erratic competitor and undisciplined student, often arriving late to training and skipping school. Bobek placed 4th at the 1992 World Junior Championships, but the next year dropped to 16th at the same event. She made her first appearance at the senior World Championships in 1994, as an alternate (after both Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding dropped out of the event), but failed to advance out of the qualifying round.
The 1995 season brought Bobek her greatest competitive success; she won gold at the U.S. Championships, followed by the bronze medal at the World Championships. In late 1995, Bobek toured with an ice show production of The Nutcracker, rather than rehabilitate an ankle injury or train for the upcoming 1996 U.S. Championships. The injury forced her out of the event, and off the World team for that season. She parted ways with her coach Richard Callaghan and joined Carlo Fassi.
Bobek won the bronze medal at the 1997 U.S. Championships, however, her coach Carlo Fassi died from a heart attack at the 1997 World Championships. She was coached for a time by his widow, Christa Fassi. She won bronze at the 1998 U.S. Nationals. At the 1998 Winter Olympics, she was impaired by a hip injury and finished in 17th-place. She withdrew from the subsequent World Championships due to another injury.
Bobek left her coach, Christa Fassi, and returned for the 1998-99 season to Richard Callaghan. Callaghan got Bobek back into shape and prepared her for the Grand Prix Series. She finished 4th at Skate America and 2nd at Trophée Lalique. But her season ended quickly with a series of injuries and health problems, which prevented her from competing at the 1999 U.S. National Championships. Bobek then turned professional, touring with Champions on Ice for several years until 2004. She also appeared in numerous other shows and professional competitions. Bobek then worked as a skating coach in Florida. In 2006, Bobek added acting to her resume; she appeared in All the King's Men, as a skater who fascinates Governor Willy Stark.
"[Bobek] coupled athleticism with ingenuity, choreographing her own routines and often improvising during performances. She was a master at playing to crowds who were wowed by her beauty and grace and a flexibility that seemed to ease her effortlessly into a trademark spiral move, her leg held straight up to her ear."
—ESPN.com sportswriter Amy K. Nelson on Bobek's skating.
At her peak, Bobek was a strong jumper although some of her jumps did not have the best technique; for instance, she had a very marked flutz, (a lutz jump which is done from the wrong edge). She had a lasting impact on ladies' figure skating because of her signature move, a spiral with the free leg extended very high. Television commentators including Dick Button and Peggy Fleming were so complimentary of Bobek's spiral that it was widely copied by other U.S. skaters, setting off a fad for extreme flexibility moves.
Bobek was noted for her poor training discipline, for occasionally smoking cigarettes, for wearing a lot of jewelry while performing on the ice, and for changing coaches at least 11 times during her competitive skating career. She trained in California, Michigan, Colorado, Florida and Virginia. At one point she explained her behavior by saying: "I'm a teenager. That's what we do." In addition to Richard Callaghan and Carlo and Christa Fassi, Bobek's coaches included Debbie Stoery, Kathy Casey, Hoon Kim, Barbara Roles, Frank Carroll, Robin Cousins, and Mary and Evy Scotvold.
Women Athletes for Figure Skating