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British Olympic figure skater John Curry, the trailblazing subject of The Ice King, sought to change the world of ice skating for the better. Often hailed as the greatest skater of all time, Curry drew acclaim for his innovative balance of artistry and athleticism, bridging the divide between dance and skating. When his coaches told him he was ‘too soft’ and needed to skate like a man, Curry carved his own indelible path and, in doing so, challenged what ice skating could be.
The Ice King is a compassionately constructed film that explores the pressures that Curry fought against and placed on himself. The first openly gay Olympian, he was adored by his critics and fans, but his struggle with loneliness and depression often threatened to bring it all down. After a winning streak that culminated with a gold medal at the 1976 Winter Olympics, Curry retired from competing and turned his attention to his first love, dance, forming a dance company and taking ballet on ice to some of the world’s grandest venues. It’s here that the film takes flight with rare footage of legendary performances, including breathtaking solo pieces that showcase his incredible grace.
By the time he was diagnosed with HIV and eventually AIDS, Curry had withdrawn from performance and the public eye, his body broken by both the sport and the disease. Curry became another young talent lost too soon, but his legacy lives on in athletes like Adam Rippon who challenge the performative masculinity that still exists in the world of competitive figure skating today. — Chris Tse