And the gold medal for figure skating goes to classical music

Nathan Chen competes in the Men's Free Skate during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on Jan. 6, 2018 in San Jose, Calif.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

February 07, 2018

Figure skating immediately conjures vivid images of highly skilled athletes, thrilling moves and eye-popping costumes. And tying together the elements of that visual splendor is music — wondrous, captivating, stunning music. As the Winter Olympics begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea, here's a look at a dozen past and present figure skaters who have mined the world of classical music in their quests for a medal, whether in the Olympics or other contests.

1. Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring

American Nathan Chen's long program includes excerpts from Stravinsky's infamously barbaric The Rite of Spring. Simon Rattle leads the Berlin Philharmonic in this excerpt.

2. Meyerbeer's Ballet of the Skaters

A ballet for skaters? Perfect! Brian Boitano skated to this movement from Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera The Prophet in 1988 — the year of the "Battle of the Brians," between American skater Boitano and Canada's Brian Orser.

3. Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann

In 1956, Tenley Albright became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating. She did it to a soundtrack featuring Jacques Offenbach's Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann.

4. Rota's Romeo and Juliet

Not technically "classical music," Nino Rota's unforgettable Love Theme ("A Time for Us") from the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet nevertheless fits the genre. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu won the gold in 2014 skating to it. (He's using Chopin this year.)

5. Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake

Ukrainian powerhouse Oksana Baiul took on the role of the Black Swan when she opened the 1994 Winter Games with a short program to the music of Peter Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Herbert von Karajan leads the Vienna Philharmonic in this excerpt featuring the main theme.

6. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 (Moonlight) has always appealed to couples. French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are using it this year. Russians Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov won a gold medal with its help in 1994.

7. Grusin's On Golden Pond

Another entry from the film world, Dave Grusin's piano-driven main theme from On Golden Pond highlights U.S. skater Karen Chen's 2018 short program.

8. Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3

In 1998, Michelle Kwan won the U.S. and world championships, and then went on to grab a silver medal at the Winter Olympics, with an all-Rachmaninoff short program, including his Piano Concerto No. 3. The music worked so well that she revived it in 2002 for another medal run.

9. Liszt's Liebstraum

American skater Jason Brown turned to the popular third work of Franz Liszt's Liebstraum (Dreams of Love) for his long program in the 2012-13 season.

10. Gershwin's Piano Concerto

South Korea's Kim Yuna won a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Games while skating to the music of an iconic American composer, George Gershwin, and his Piano Concerto.

11. Bizet's Habanera

This one is for Gilligan's Island fans, who might recognize the famous tune from a hilarious episode that set Shakespeare to music. Drawn from the Georges Bizet opera Carmen, the Habanera also found a fan in Georgian Elene Gedevanishvili, who used the music in her free program at the 2010 Winter Olympics. The version above is instrumental, but it's sung in the opera.

12. Rodrigo's Aranjuez Concerto

The second-movement Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo's Aranjuez Concerto, written for guitar and orchestra, helped sell the short program for Hungarian skater Julia Sebestyen at the 2002 Olympic Games. For further exploration of a different version of the heartachingly beautiful work, check out this fabulous scene from the 1996 British film Brassed Off, featuring actress Tara Fitzgerald — who did learn flugelhorn for the role, but is not actually playing.