Flashback to 1984 Winter Olympics
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.
Last edited by SkateFan4Life; 09-27-2005 at 08:55 PM.
this was a year before I was born... I would love to have some way of seeing it...
to top off Scott's cold/sore throat... he had a very bad ear ache/infection (can't remember exactly what he said in his book[surprising, I know, that I haven't memorized every word on every page I know]) which threw off his balance...considering that he did very well...and he's always acknowledged that Brian would have won save for the politiking of figures
they were the Olympic Dream Team according to Scott's book. Becoming friends during a tour, and toasting to the olys hoping they'd all be on the podium no matter what order
SkateFan4Life, thanks so much for the review! I don´t remember what my thoughts about the men´s competition were, but I very distincly remember that in my opinion Witt was totally the right winner. In that time I was not able to see any of the compulsive school figures or the short programmes, only the freeskate.
You're welcome, Jaana. My pleasure. I completely agree with you that Katarina Witt deserved the gold medal. She finished third in the school figures, and she won both the short and long programs. IMHO, she won convincingly, as she went for her jumps, skated with a lot of athleticism and confidence, and really related to the audience.
Originally Posted by Jaana
Poor Summers, if she had landed even 1 of her last 2 jumps, probably even the double axel she singled, she would have won the gold medal I believe. I read some stories about her 2-year depression after the Olympics before she joined Stars On Ice and became inspired with skating and life again.
The Seattle press really banned Roz for "failing" to win the Olympic gold medal. The headlines proclaimed that her "faulty finish relegated her to the silver medal." Indeed, Sumners was devastated over the loss, even more so because it seemed that nobody back home supported her but rather considered her to be a failure for not finishing first. She turned pro prior to that year's Worlds, citing "the pressure of competition", but it seemed that she was just completely burned out mentally, emotionally, and physically, and simply could not compete.
Roz skated with Disney on Ice for several seasons, but was unhappy doing so. She wasn't really a "star", and sometimes her assignments relegated her to playing second fiddle to Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
It wasn't until she skated with Robin Cousins in a 1987 production of "Sleeping Beauty on Ice" that she redisovered her love for figure skating. It was around that time, too, that Scott Hamilton created the original Stars on Ice, and Roz happily jumped on board, where she was a regular cast member for many years.
Another point - the US had won a number of Olympic gold medals in women's figure skating by 1984 - with Tenley Albright, Carol Heiss, Peggy Fleming, and Dorothy Hamill. The US came to regard the women's gold medal as "theirs". Linda Fratianne's silver medal finish at Lake Placid was considered to be a slip-up, and Roz's silver medal finish at Sarajevo was another "failure". Perhaps it didn't help that Fratianne and Sumners lost to East German skaters, as the Cold War was still very much a part of the international scene in those days.
I remember reading press reports from Sarajevo on the women's figure skating competition. A number of writers wrote that, in their opinion, Witt was the gold medal favorite, not Sumners. The way the judges nailed Sumners for her small error in the short program, perhaps, demonstrated a bit that the judges did not consider her the absolute favorite. Perhaps if Roz had nailed her long program she would have won, and the fact that the judges split 5/4 indicates that she might well have.
Sumners had a been a classy and professional champion, and an outstanding and dedicated competitor, and ambasaddor for U.S skating in the mid-80s, from the time she upset Elaine Zayak for the 82 U.S title. She accomplished alot in a short career, winning 3 U.S titles, a Worlds, and a silver that was very nearly a gold in the Olympics. It is sad some viewed her as a tarnished star because she didnt fit into an extra revolution on a couple of jumps. Obviously the pressure on U.S woman to succeed at all means, was every bit was it is now in some ways.
It must also be hard for her to be able to even do double axels in a touring stop today, and yet she might have been the Oly gold medalist the U.S public so badly wanted her to be in 1984, had she done her last one that night as a 19-year-old, and she might be talked about as one of the iconic stars of U.S womens skating, instead of being brushed under the rug more or less in some people eyes.
I do believe though short program deductions were much more severe then than they were now. I believe a two-footed landing was an automatic .4, a fall on the combination jump was a .6, a hand down was a .3 I believe, not including the possable lowering of the second set as well. Plushenko, Ito, Kwan, and a few others are lucky they skate under todays rules otherwise they would never have been able to win their major event silvers that they won with falls in the short program, in all likelihood.
I remember taht 1987 Sleeping Beauty Special. I watched it on tape all the time when I was little.
I was still very young, but I remembered the Bolero by Jayne and Chris very clearly, it haunted in my memory over the years. Recently as the luck had it I found the video clip of this performance and got to see it again, it sent shivers down the spine... it was hard to believe this performance was more than 20 year old. I would say this was THE best dance performance ever...
In my heart, I'm actually Canadian....
I'll start with my impressions of the Dance competition, or more to the point, my impression of the Dance judging controversy. To this day, I still want to throw a huge amount of rotten vegetables and empty beer cans at Cia Bordogna, the judge who was mostly responsible for Blumberg/Seibert finishing off the podium. "Scheherezade" was an absolute brilliant free dance, gorgeously executed, easily IMHO the silver medal performance. As to the "improper music" excuse -- based on rules in play at the time, "Scheherezade", a ballet, was actually more "proper" than "Bolero", which was not. However, it was generally acknowledged at the time that Torvill/Dean were allowed to get away with things that other couples were not. And Michael Seibert did say of Bordogna "She's been a swing judge for us before. And she's always swung Russian."
As for the pairs, what a great moment for Kitty & Peter; they were truly terrific on both nights and it was a thrill to see them acheive their best-ever international showing (excluding some minor internationals that they won) at the Olympics! This made up for the disappointment I felt over the disastrous competition that Underhill/Martini had; I truly wanted them to do well. However -- many have said that it was the disappointment in Sarajevo that made their Worlds win in Ottawa a month later all that much more special and spectacular, and I have to agree. As for Seleznyeva/Makarov, I had seen them at a minor competiton a couple of years earlier; wasn't impressed then and wasn't impressed in Sarajevo and much would have preferred to see Baesse/Thierbach on the podium. Valova & Vasiliev skated very well and they were the first Soviet pair I ever saw that I actually liked.
The highlight of the men for me was Sabovcik winning the bronze; he was my favorite skater at the time and I was glad to see him make this breakthrough. It was also good to see the man who was to become my favorite skater through the next Olympics, Brian Orser, improve so much and skate so well; up until Sarajevo I just hadn't been impressed. It was a shame to see Hamilton so off, but he did get the job done.
I was and still am a huge Roz fan, so I was disappointed that she'd come so close and not won, but it was great that she got the 6.0, tho I think that may have been overmarking a bit. Witt was delightful; this was in the days before she became such a PERSONALITY (read: borderline diva); in subsequent years she rather got on my nerves, but back in those days, I adored her. The funny thing is, right after she won, Carol Heiss was quoted as saying, "Do you have any idea how much money she would make if she were American? Now she's going to be just some nice little gold medal winner tucked away in East Germany somewhere." Well, history certainly proved THAT wrong.... As to the bronze medal winner -- I don't get it. I didn't get it then, and I still don't. Ivanova was easily the weakest skater in the entire top 10, and she wins the bronze??? (And as both my mother and Dick Button said, Her skates weren't even clean!!) I still say, to this day, that had Kriistina Wegelius stayed around one more year and gone to Sarajevo, SHE would have won the bronze. After all, apparently all you needed to do to do that was be good in compolsuries and adequete in short program (since part of the reason Ivanova won the bronze was because Tiffany Chin was down so far after the figures). Wegelius would have been top 3 in figures, if not 1st (Ivanova was 5th) and her free skating was about as good as Ivanova's; I saw her at Skate America one year and she was actually quite good, which is more than I ever said about Ivanova's skating (tho actually long about 87, 88, she had gotten passable.)
I must say, I was very surprised the judges left Baess/Thierbach off the podium, I have not seen the pairs competition on tape. However they were the 82 World Champions, the 83 runners up to Valova/Vassilev after winning the short program, and had won the Europeans twice I believe. Yet they lost a close 3-way split vote for a medal to both the Carruthers and Selezneva/Makarov, I am surprised the judges would leave such an accomplished team out of the medals in a close decision. Did they have some some major errors in their programs, or what happened to them? I know what happened to Underhill/Martina of course.
With regards to Rosalynn Sumners and Katarina Witt, I believe that Roz was a better overall skater with better program. I would point to Roz's Ina Bauer/2 axel as an example of a very beautiful move which Roz did that Kat didn't/couldn't. Had Roz nailed all her elements, I am positive she would have won. However, she was a clearly inferior competitor to Katarina. In those days, Katarina actually had more technical difficulty than Roz and while her artistic impression wasn't quite as great, it was still good. It really came down to the fact Roz had 3 errors (1 in SP, 2 in LP) and Kat didn't.
I suspect the reason Roz was so devastated was because the gold was hers and she let it slip away. The fact she only lost in a 5/4 split in spite of all the deductions she had is the clearest indicator of this.
The "Fire on Ice" television special that aired a few years ago included segments on many of the top American women figure skaters, including the rivalty between Roz Sumners and Elaine Zayak, and the rivalry between Roz and Katarina Witt.
As Roz recalled, she was nailed by the judges for two-footing the landing of her short program double axel. She said, "The judges did everything they could do to hold Katarina up and mark me down." Roz said she skated "the long program of her life" the next morning during practice, but unfortuately, that wasn't the program she skated that night, when it counted.
Sumners said she felt a sense of foreboding and defeat when she entered the Olympic arena the evening of the long program. She said she knew in her heart that it was already over. Katarina skated her lively "Gershwin" long program right before Sumners, and although Roz did not watch Katarina skate, her coach did. Roz said, "After Katarina skated, my coach came back inside, and her face was as white as a sheet. My heart dropped to my boots. After all, if your own coach doesn't think you can win, what are you supposed to think?"
According to Roz, muscle memory carried her through the first three minutes of her long program, thanks to her many years of disciplined training. Then, her mental state took over the final minute, and she just gave up. There was no "fight" in her. How unfortunate that was, because I think she could have won the gold medal, had she landed that final triple toe and double axel.
In the same "Fire on Ice" program, Witt spoke of her reputation as a tough competitor. She said she had removed her planned triple flip from her Sarajevo long program because she knew Rosalyn wasn't going to land that jump. She said, "I only did what I needed to do to win."
It sounds like Sumners allowed her mindsight to be too swayed by what people around her where gossiping, hinting, and potraying. The real situation may have been very different than she envisioned. Like I said, back in the 80s a two-foot landing in the short program was a .4 deduction, so I dont know why she would have been surprised to finish 4th in the short, it reminds me of when Dick Button was shocked Kwan was dropped to 4th in the short at the 99 Worlds when she fell(now a fall is a .4, the same a two-footed jump was then).
In the long program she downgraded her last two jumps, back then with the technical content the woman had every triple(there were very few, and mostly only the best girls doing salchows and toes)and any double axel was a critical jump; and it was still a 5-4 split, although two judges had her as low as 4th and 5th, I dont doubt there was a couple of bad apples out there, but most of the judges were fair, and maybe she allowed herself to be swallowed up and misled by the pressures and buzz that is the Olympics, and psyched herself out of the gold medal on her own accord.
On another note, I find it amazing the U.S potryaed Zayak as Sumner's chief rival for the gold medal. She had done virtualy nothing since winning the 82 Worlds by taking an advantage of the Zayak rule, repeating the triple toe over and over. Without the advantage of repeating jumps an unlimited number of times, while she was still a great jumper, her jumping was no longer any better than Witt or Sumners(and a few others perhaps)who could also do a triple toe, triple salchow, double axel, and any triple-double combo she could do; of course with Witt and Chen then both capable of the occasional triple flip. Of course her artistry was light years behind either Witt or Sumners, so once the Zayak rule was in place I cant see how she could challenge either of them. She had finished well off the podium at the 83 Worlds, and a distant 3rd at the 84 U.S nationals, were even after Sumners and Chen had major errors, apparently judges discreetly surveyed after were split to whether she would have won with a clean skate or not, hardly a promising sign. Furthermore she also trailed by an enormous margin after compulsory figures, even the year she won Worlds she was 12th in figures, and could not have won overall, without all the mistakes allowing flip-flopping of program placings to make that possable. Of course at the Olympics she was out of medal contention right away with a 13th in figures, but that shouldnt be that surprising since that is often where she is in figures in global competition, of course skating in flights with lower skaters after compulsories, her marks are also cautious because of it, and if she doesnt finish ahead of skaters like Sumners or Witt in the free skating programs it is near impossable to even catch inferior free skaters like Ivanova and Vederezova who are masterful at figures. I dont mean to slight Zayak in anyway, she is a great skater, who helped revolutionize womens jumping, very determined and athletic skater, who worked hard througout her career to improve spins, overall artistry, or anything she felt would help her. I simply see her going into the 84 Olympics, as a bronze medal being a very admirable goal to set for herself, and while certainly a possable and realistic target, one that would have been meaningful and personaly satisfying result. Tiffany Chen and Anna Kondrashova(who bombed at the Olympics but would win silver at the post-0lympic 84 Worlds just ahead of Zayak's bronze)I personaly saw as even stronger dark horses to threaten Witt and Sumners. I guess the U.S media can create any storyline they wish, ala the 98 Olympics and likelihood of a U.S womens sweep. I need to become more naive, I guess I just dont fit in with the crowd I guess.
Roz Sumners has said that she should have paid more attention to Katarina Witt, but in the months heading into the 1984 Olympics, all of the US media attention was focused on the expected gold-medal showdown between Zayak and Sumners - the '82 and the '83 World champions, respectively. The mindset was that this was a two-woman show, and that they would finish 1-2 in some order, and that the gold medal would be won by an American woman.
The "Sports Illustrated" 1984 Olympic preview issue had a long story on the Sumners/Zayak rivalry, and it only briefly mentioned Tiffany Chin, who had finished a very close second to Sumners at Nationals. There was absolutely no mention of Katarina Witt - it was just a Sumners/Zayak show, as far as they were concerned.
One of my copies of "Skating" contained a short piece on the 1984 Europeans, which Witt won. It said (to paraphrase) "Witt was a big fish in a small pond. It remains to be seen if she can challenge the Americans, as she is ranked only fourth in the world." It also mentioned that Witt had grown "considerably" since the last season and was more artistic in her presentation.