There have been numerous outstanding, memorable, top-notch competitive programs that our favorite skaters have delivered over the years, much to our delight. A few of these, in my view, are:
1996 US Nationals - Rudy Galindo's glorious long program that won him the title. Rudy's triple axel/triple toe and triple lutz/triple toe combinations were the class of the field, as was his superb line, edge, flow, and choregraphy. His spins were gorgeous - a layback spin, a "shotgun" spin, spread eagles, extensions, etc. Dick Button practically gushed throughout the program, and even he was impressed at Rudy's skating. To skate so well in your home town, before your friends, fans, and neighbors was such a thrill, and it was made even more sweet because so many folks had written Rudy off as a lost cause, as far as a singles skater is concerned. While Rudy and Kristi Yamaguchi won two US pairs titles, he floundered as a singles skater after Yamaguchi broke up their partnership in 1990. Rudy was close to calling it quits, but decided to compete for one more year. And what a performance at the Nationals! The crowd was going crazy, as was Rudy's sister/coach. When they sat in the kiss 'n cry area, the crowd screamed and chanted, "Six! Six! Six!". And, indeed, Rudy did receive several 6.0s for presentation. What a triumph!!! What wonderful interpretation of "Swan Lake"!!
1996 US Nationals - Michelle Kwan's long program, skated to "Salome", was a breakthrough routine for her, as it marked the dawn of her emergence as a beautiful artist as well as a gifted technical skater. Michelle's blossoming into a lovely young woman, and her interpretive skill was amazing. She soared through her jumps, she played the role of "Salome" to the max, and she left no doubt in anyone's minds that she was going to become the next US champion. She skated the same great routine at the Worlds and won her first World title. A fantastic skate for an extraordinary then-15-year-old!!!
1988 Winter Olympics - Elizabeth Manley's terrific long program, skated to lively selections including "Canadian Concerto". She soared through her five clean, right-on-the-money triple jumps, including a triple lutz, and she won the long program. Liz should have won the gold medal with that skate, in my opinion, but the combined scores of school figures, short and long programs left her in second place. The crowd went crazy, and celebrated her wonderful long program and excellent placement. Liz was another skater who had so much talent but who had never quite managed to put it all together until 1988 - and what a moment to put it all together!! I get goosebumps whenever I watch a reply of Elizabeth's long program. You go, girl!!
The "Battle of the Brians" at the 1988 Winter Olympics was, in my opinion, one of the finest competitions ever in the history of men's Olympic figure skating. Brian Boitano skated the long program of his life, with two clean triple axels, one in combination, his towering 'Tano Lutz, a neat triple flip/triple toe combination, a huge death drop spin, and a spread eagle on a harrowing outside edge. What a moment to skate the best competitive program of your life!! It won Brian the gold medal, fairly and squarely. That year Boitano emerged with greatly improved artistic skills to enhance his already solid technical skills. He was a complete skater, and it showed with that performance.
Brian Orser also skated a fantastic long program and won the silver medal. Brian's program had two minor flaws - a stumble on a triple flip and a triple axel that was reduced to a double axel. Artistically, it was excellent, but not quite up to the technical standard of Boitano, and as the technical mark was the tiebreaker in those days, Boitano won the gold medal.
Boitano and Orser were shining examples of class, talent, and good sportsmanship. I'm sure Orser was devastated at losing the gold medal by such a narrow margin, but he graciously congratulated Boitano on the podium. And for his part, Boitano was a gracious winner - no showboating or patting himself on the back.
Thanks for the memories, Brians!!
1989 Worlds - Midori Ito's long program. Midori Ito became the first woman to land a triple axel at Worlds, and it was a bravado performance. Bold and brilliant, all the way. Triple lutz, axel, flip, triple toe/triple toe, loop, etc. Midori had made noticeable strides on her presentation skills, and she skated with a lot of expression and personality to go masterfully with her powerful jumping.
Midori received five 6.0s for technical merit. I remember that the crowd in Paris screamed an cheered when the marks were announced. She received all 5.8s and 5.9s for presentation, and she won the gold medal convincingly. When Midori left the rink after her performance, she was crying tears of happiness.
What a lovely moment!!