Olympian and Artist

Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry - Bill Jones

Trigger Warnings: suicide/suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, homophobia


I never heard of John Curry prior to reading this book. I am not much of a fan of ice skating; I do like to watch the competitions and exhibitions when televised, but I never wanted to don a pair of skates and go around a rink nor do I have much technical knowledge of the sport. However, the reader for this book does not need technical knowledge, just an interest in biographies. And what a biography this was.


John Curry led an interesting yet short life: his father was an undiagnosed depressive (author's words) and alcoholic (dying when Curry was 16) and his mother was doting but firm. Curry himself was deeply introverted as a child and was only close to his brother Andrew and his mother growing up. He dreamed of becoming a dancer, but in 1950s - 1960s post-war Britain, that dream was frowned upon as not "manly" enough and for queers. So Curry embarked on a parallel path - ice skating, which was manly enough in society's eyes due to the style and athleticism that made it close to being a sport rather than art. From the age of 7 until his death at 44, Curry's ambition was to change the sport from one of brute to one that combined athleticism with dance. He succeeded, earning the European, Olympian, and World Championships in the space of 50 days in 1976.


Curry's life was intersectional: there was class differences, sexuality (Curry came out publicly the day after winning gold at the Olympics and he had hardcore BDSM interests), HIV status, all rolled into the book. The author takes great pains to paint a complete picture of Curry; there was nothing written in overly dramatic fashion to idolize or dehumanize Curry. At times I admired his passion for his work and felt horrible for him when he faced homophobia; at other times, I wanted to smack Curry for being a bully (especially to his female skaters about their weight) or for just being a moody prickly "artiste" and snob.


Highly enjoyed and would recommend. 4 stars.


Here are some links to videos of Curry's work: