The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

When it comes to figure skating, don’t underestimate the choice of music

Nathan Chen's musical choices have run the gamut from “La Boheme” to “Rocketman.” (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

The music may not be on their personal playlists, but it’s a crucial, creative component of a figure skater’s performance.

It might be classical. It might have its origins in a popular stage play or film. And sometimes it’s just the kind of thing that gets the crowd clapping along to help inspire a performance.

The playlist for the men’s free skate at the Beijing Olympics, which is scheduled for Wednesday night Eastern time, reveals that all of those have been sources of inspiration. The right musical choice can make all the difference when it comes to clinching a medal in the free skate, which is meant to be an emotional as well as athletic performance. It can also subconsciously sway judges.

(See below for a list of many of the musical selections.)

“The Olympics are a wider, broader audience. You want people to recognize it,” Carol Lane, a coach and choreographer, told Canada’s CBC. “You want the judges to fall in love with you and the audience likewise.

“Music can put you over the top. In the end, if you have nine judges bawling their eyes out and pressing the 5-button, you did it right.”

Nathan Chen is chasing gold in his own way: With joy, swag and ‘Rocketman’

Don’t be surprised to hear Daft Punk, “Fly Me to the Moon,” the theme from “Schindler’s List” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” during the free skate. But entertainment is only a secondary goal.

“The free skate is always a bigger task,” Canadian skater Madeline Schizas said. “It’s four minutes. You have to pick something that’s fairly serious, generally speaking, that can keep everyone’s attention.”

Nathan Chen, the American bidding for a gold medal after his world record-breaking, 113.97-point performance in the short program, took piano lessons until he was 12, and he has looked to England for inspiration as he hopes to wrap up a gold medal. He’ll skate to a medley from the Elton John biopic, “Rocketman,” according to the official playlist. For his short program, he skated to “La Bohème” by singer and lyricist Charles Aznavour.

Yuma Kagiyama, Japan’s boyishly charismatic skater, had the crowd, limited as it was by coronavirus restrictions, clapping along during the short program as he skated to that old ditty “When You’re Smiling.” He had an outstanding performance, but Chen’s was nearly flawless and Kagiyama is in second place with 108.12 points going into the free skate, for which he has chosen music from the movie “Gladiator.”

Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” soared in popularity among skaters after Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skated to its dramatic rhythms in a gold medal performance in 1984 in Sarajevo. Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old competing for the Russian Olympic Committee team, used it in her performance in the team event this week, and it’s the choice for Japan’s Shoma Uno, who is in third place in the men’s competition with 105.90 points, in the free skate.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2018 and 2014 Olympic champion, had a disappointing short program that left him in eighth place with 95.15 points, well back of the top three. Yuzuru’s musical choice for the free skate was not released ahead of time by Olympic officials.

Men’s free skate planned musical selections, highlights:

Nikolaj Majorov: “The Man in the Iron Mask” soundtrack

Vladimir Litvintsev: “The Joker” soundtrack, “Rock and Roll Part 2″

Mark Kondratiuk: “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Adam Siao Him Fa: Daft Punk, arranged by Cedric Tour

Daniel Grassl: “Interstellar,” “Armageddon”

Kevin Aymoz: “Outro” by M83

Yuzuru Hanyu: "Ten to Chi to (Heaven and Earth) "by Isao Tomita

Evgenie Semenenko: “The Master and Margarita” by Igor Korneliuk

Jason Brown: “Schindler’s List” by John Williams

Morisi Kvitelashvili: “Fly Me to the Moon,” “My Way,” “I’m gonna live till I die”

Junhwan Cha: “Turandot” by Puccini

Shoma Uno: “Bolero” by Ravel

Yuma Kagiyama: “Gladiator” by Hans Zimmer

Nathan Chen: “Rocketman” by Elton John