As people note the absence of Black figure skaters at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, they also remember and celebrate one of the greats of the sport, three-time Olympian Surya Bonaly of France. Known for her jumping prowess and incredible backflip, which she learned how to land on one foot, Bonaly’s story is captured in the new illustrated book, “Fearless Heart: The Legacy of an Olympic Figure Skater.”
Bonaly, 48, is touched that people remember her skating and amused that new fans enjoy videos of her competing and performing. “I can see now people recognize and appreciate more than when I was [competing], enjoy and really realize what was happening,” said Bonaly, who ended her Olympic career in 1998 with a rules-defying backflip. “Back then it was maybe not as free.”
Now a coach living in Las Vegas, she still doesn’t see many young skaters of color, but at a recent book signing in Austin, Texas, she met several people of color who asked questions about her career. “It’s coming little by little,” she said. “I teach the Learn-to-Skate program at my rink in Las Vegas, and I do see a few kids of color. It’s nice to see.”
Longtime children’s book writer Frank Murphy contacted Bonaly about doing the book. She was a bit stunned that he wanted to write about her. “He said, ‘I want you to be involved. We have to write it together,’” she recalled. “I thought it was nice. I didn’t know him and he’s not involved in skating, but apparently he was inspired by the 2018 Olympics.”
Bonaly said Murphy was very enthusiastic and he found the publisher, Triumph Books. Although it’s geared for young readers, anyone touched by Bonaly’s skating will appreciate it. “Fearless Heart” is illustrated by Anastasia Magloire Williams. Bonaly finds Williams’ work amazing—both artistic and true to life. They spoke many times so Williams could create illustrations accurate to Bonaly’s recollections.
“So far, people like it,” said Bonaly, who will be a spectator at the upcoming 2022 World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier, France, and is looking forward to seeing the current generation of competitors. “It was great timing for the book to come out just before the Olympics. It’s great inspiration.
“It’s nice because the story is true,” she added. “Sometimes people try to do something sensational and change the story. That is not me. This story is what really happened.”