We all know that the ice is a slippery surface, and well, sometimes even the most talented figure skaters experience a disastrous competitive performance - one which they probably wish they could permanently erase from their memory banks. Here's a partial list of "when disaster strikes" in no particular order:
(1) 1993 Worlds - Nancy Kerrigan's long program. Nancy was the newly-crowned US champion and reigning Olympic bronze medalist and World silver medalist. She had won the short program at the 1993 Worlds, held in Prague, and was in a very strong position to win her first World title. Egads - Nancy missed her opening triple flip, then proceeded to fall or stumble on four more of her triples. While her program was unraveling, to the soundtrack "Beauty and the Beast", Nancy's
expression assumed a growing look of shock, dismay, and disbelief. I felt so sorry for her! She fled the rink, received her cruel (but accurate) low scores, and stated on camera, "I should be winning one of the medals!" Indeed, Nancy should have at least medaled at the 1993 Worlds, based on her World ranking; however, her long program was scored ninth, and she finished fifth overall.
(2) 1990 Worlds - Midori Ito, the reigning World champion, had collided with Letitia Hubert of France during the short program warmup, and the foot and rib cage injuries she suffered were to plague her for the long program. While she was able to skate the short program relatively pain-free, she miscalulated the distance from the takeoff of her triple lutz/
double toe combination to the edge of the rink, and she flew right off the rink, smack into the television camera.
In the long program, Midori's injuries kicked in, bigtime, and she was able to compete only three triples. She singled her triple flip, fell on her triple axel, and missed two other triples. It was painful to watch. Midori finished out of the medals, in fourth place.
(3) 1984 Winter Olympics - Barbara Underhill/Paul Martini, the Canadian pairs champions and reigning World bronze medalists,
were strong contenders for Olympic gold. Alas (!) Barbara fell on their side by side sit spins, and Paul collided into her and also fell. That error left them in 7th place going into the long program, where they made a few other mistakes and finished well out of the medals.
(4) 1980 Winter Olympics - Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner entered as the five-time US champions and reigning World champions - although their win in 1979 was due partially by the absence of longtime gold medalists Rodnina/Zaitsev. Irina had recently given birth to her first child and had missed that competition. Randy Gardner had injured his groin in January while practicing in California, and he re-injured the groin while practicing in Lake Placid. Unfortunately, the injury left him practically immobile and unable to lift Tai or to perform his side by side jumps. Watching them warm up for the short program, on live television was heartbreaking. Clearly, Randy was seriously injured and unable to skate. They withdrew from the competition.
(5) 1989 US Nationals. Natalie and Wayne Seybold, veteran US pairs skaters, were in the position to win their first National
title and were in first position after the short program. Alas, disaster struck, as Natalie fell on their throw triple salchow, singled their side by side double axels, and she caught her blade on the other boot while rotating on the throw triple loop and crash-landed on the ice. The lace had become loose, and the Seybolds were instructed to restart their program where they left off. The judges gave them quite generous marks that gave them the silver medal and the second spot on the World tem. A somewhat controversial finish, by many accounts.
(6) 1987 US Nationals. Michelle Kwan was the reigning US and World champion and considered a shoo-in to defend her title. Alas - Michelle missed three of her opening jumps, falling
twice, and she finished second. It was a shock to see this young woman, who appeared to be the essence of perfection and consistency, fall apart during her long program.
(7) 1994 Winter Olympics. Tonya Harding arrived at the Games
undertrained and overweight and, of course, the media was focused on her and Nancy Kerrigan, almost obsessively, due to the Kerrigan assault that occurred during the US Nationals.
Harding somehow forgot to carry an extra pair of skate laces and nearly missed the time warning to appear to skate for the long program. She began her long program, immediately missed her triple lutz, skated over to the judges, crying, and explained that she needed more time to relace her skates.
She was given the opportunity to skate, which meant that the other skaters had to compete earlier than they had expected to. Still, Tonya made a number of mistakes, and finished eighth. All of that talk about winning the gold medal was not backed up with the kind of great skating that might have won it.
And the list goes on......