I recently pulled out my videotapes of the 1984 Winter Olympics, held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, the other evening. It brought back some wonderful memories!
The opening ceremony was so colorful and joyful. A Yugoslavian figure skater lit the Olympic flame, with hundreds of brightly-costumes "locals" dancing an excellent routine around the cauldron. Christopher Dean carried the Union Jack to lead the Olympic team from Great Britain. Scott Hamilton, who carried the US flag at the 1980 opening ceremony, walked with his teammates. The camera panned to Kitty and Peter Carruthers, Roz Sumners, and Elaine Zayak, among other American athletes.
The Men's Competition:
Scott Hamilton won the compulsory school figures, the first time he had won this discipline in a major international competition. He had strong figures but usually finished second or third behind skaters who excelled in this area.
At Sarajevo, it was a good thing that he won the figures, as he did not skate his best in the short and long programs. Scott looked tired and nervous as he skated his SP. As it happened, Scott had come down with a cold and sore throat, and he wasn't up to par physically. His LP wasn't his best, either, as he singled his planned triple flip, and he two-footed another triple. When he came off the ice, he said, "I'm sorry" to his coach, Don Laws. Scott wore jumpsuits for both SP and LP - a statement of his, it seems, against the decorative costumes that some of the men wore. Scott finished second in both the SP and LP. At the medal ceremony, he looked proud, relieved, and, frankly, glad that the whole thing was over. I guess I can't imagine the pressure of entering an Olympic competition as the three-time World champion and heavy favorite.
The "New York Times" labeled Scott's long program "subdued, flawed, and tentative", and I recall reading another newspaper account of his LP that had the banner headling "Winning Ugly." That's a bit harsh, I think. I was very proud of Scott. He became the first American man to win the Olympic figure skating title since David Jenkins' victory at the 1960 Olympics.
Brian Orser of Canada won the silver medal at Sarajevo. He finished seventh in the figures, and he could not make up the distance in the short and long programs. Nevertheless, Brian skated two fantastic programs. He was awesome, IMHO! His long program included two triple axels and other clean triples. Clearly, he had the technical edge over Scott Hamilion, who did not perform triple axels. Brian seemed pleased with his Olympic silver medal.
"Jumpin Joe" Sabovcik of Czechoslovakia won the bronze medal. I really enjoyed his long program. While Joseph wasn't as polished or artistic as some of the other men, could he ever jump! His delayed single axel was incredibly high and powerful.
I thought the men's podium was a showcase of talent and good sportsmanship.
Scott, Brian, and Joseph - a terrific trio!
The Women's Competition:
I well remember the media hype going into the 1984 Olympics. In the US, at least, the talk was all about the rivalry between Rosalyn Sumners, the 3-time US champion and current World champion, and Elaine Zayak, a former US and World champion who was known for skating long programs with six triple jumps. It was a match between the artist (Roz) and the athlete (Elaine). The American press, at least, didn't give much notice to 18-year-old Katarina Witt, who had recently won the European title.
Roz won the school figures handily and set herself up to win the gold medal.
In third place, however, was Katarina, who skated some of the best school figures of her career up to that point. Witt said she was very pleased with her placement as it placed her "right where I want to be". Zayak skated poor figures and was in 13th place, effectively leaving out her of the hunt for the medals.
Witt won the short program with a lively, athletic performance. She wore a white costume with peasant trims and a white tiara. Everyone started to talk about how beautiful she was. I remember reading a press report that she was "Eighteen-car pileup gorgeous."
Sumners skated a great short program with one small flow - a two-footed landing on her double axel. The judges, apparently, nailed her for that mistake. I remember seeing her technical scores - 5.3 and 5.4 - very low for Roz. She looked stunned as she looked at the scores. Although she could still win the gold medal if she won the long program, she knew she had to skate the LP of her life to beat Witt.
The press by that time was including articles that "Katarina Witt is sure to win the gold medal". There were whispers that the judges (which at that time had a solid Communist bloc) did not want to see the singles titles won by two Americans.
Katarina skated a very entertaining and lovely long program to Gershwin tunes such as "Embraceful You", "I've Got Rhythm", etc. She landed three triple jumps, which at that time, was a very respective number of triples. Witt wore a stunning raspberry-colored dress, and she, again, looked beautiful.
Rosalyn started off strongly in her long program, and she was graceful throughout her routine, which included a lovely mid-section to "Amazing Grace". However, at the end of her program, she doubled a planned triple toe and singled a planned double axel. Those were the last impressions given to the judges. Dick Button, commentating, gasped when she finished. He said, "Well, she hasn't made any mistakes, but she won't receive credit for all of the jumps she failed to land."
The judges awarded the gold medal to Witt in a 5/4 decision. IMHO, had Roz landed those last two jumps, she might have won the gold medal, as at least one judge, perhaps, would have raised her technical mark to be higher than Witt's. In my opinion, Witt deserved to win the gold medal, as she skated the better, more athletic programs.
The bronze medal was won by Soviet skater Kira Ivanova, a wonderful compulsory figures skater but a somewhat bland free skater. She became the first Soviet woman to win an Olympic medal. (Sadly, Kira was found dead several years ago.)
Sixteen-year-old Tiffany Chin, the US silver medalist, finished a strong fourth overall at the Olympics. She finished 12th in the school figures but was second in the short and third in the long program.
Elaine Zayak finished 6th overall.
The Pairs Competition:
I remember the powerful program skated by Soviets Elena Valova and Oleg Vasilev, the defending World champions. While they weren't particularly graceful or elegant, could they ever jump and spin! Their throw jumps were amazing for their time. There did not seem to be much doubt that they would win the gold medal.
The silver medal was won by American brother and sister Kitty and Peter Carruthers. This was a small upset, as the highest they had ever finished at Worlds was 3rd (1982). They received some help (unfortunate, of course) when Canadians Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini fell on their side-by-side SP sitspins and fell in the standings. Kitty and Peter skated a strong, confident long program and remained in second place. I remember their long, lingering embrace after they finished. The medal ceremony was moving as well, as tears of joy fell down her face.
The bronze medal was won by Soviets Larissa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov. With all due respect to them, I thought their skating was totally uninspired. Yes, it was strong and athletic, but they came across like a pair of robots, IMHO. My apologies to all for that opinion.
Ice Dancing Competition:
Ah, perhaps this is saving the best for last!! Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won this competition in a walk. Their short program featured Chris as a bull fighter, and Jayne as his "cape". It was inventive, as always, and they received 6.0s, as always! Their long program, to "Bolero", is probably one of the greatest ice dance routines of all time. IMHO, at least. They stretched the rules by not actually skating until 20 seconds or so of the music had played. The routine was passionate, perfectly skated, and the audience gave them a long, standing ovation. Their final move was one in which they both fell on their knees and landed on their sides on the ice. As the solid row of 6.0s for presentation was read off, Peggy Fleming, commenting, said, "We are so lucky to be here to see this." Indeed. The medal ceremony was moving as well.
The silver medal was won by Soviets Natalia Bestemianova and Andre Bukin, a pair that skated a bit stiffly (IMHO) but with a lot of determination.
The bronze was won by Soviets Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomorenko. This was a controversial decision, in that K & P defeated Americans Judy Blumberg and Michael Siebert, who were the defending World bronze medalists. The Italian judge gave B & S very low technical marks for their long program, as she stated that the music was "not suited for ice dancing". This was Schezharade (sp), which has been skated to by many skaters. Judy and Michael looked absolutely stunned as they stood on the sidelines, sans medal.
The exhibitions were very entertaining. All of the skaters looked relaxed and happy that the competition was over.
And yet.....Sarajevo was the site of years of fighting during the years that followed the Olympics. The Zetra Ice Rink, the site of the Olympic figure skating competitions, is a bombed-out shell.