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Thread: ** Flashback ** 1988 Olympic Figure Skating - Calgary, Alberta

  1. #1
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    ** Flashback ** 1988 Olympic Figure Skating - Calgary, Alberta

    The Calgary Winter Olympics were one of my all-time favorites. Absolutely outstanding figure skating competitions. I've enjoyed viewing my videotapes from time to time, and here are my impressions:

    The Men's Competiton:
    1988 was the "Battle of the Brians". What can I say - it was one of the finest nights of Olympic men's figure skating ever (IMHO, of course). Canadian Brian Orser, the defending World Champion was a slight favorite over the 1986 World Champion, Brian Boitano of the USA. Both Brians skated their hearts out at Calgary, and many of us wish that there could have been two gold medals awarded at that competition.

    Orser won the short program and Boitano was second, but with the combined school figures scores, Boitano was in first place going into the long program, with Orser a very close second. Essentially, whoever won the long program would win the gold medal.

    Boitano skated to the theme from the television program "Napoleon", and his program featured eight triple jumps, two of which were triple axels. His combinations were a triple axel/double toe and a triple flip/triple toe. All of his jumps were right on, as were his spins. Brian had grown significantly as a skater during the past year, and in working with choregrapher Sandra Bezic, he emerged as an artist. Up until that time, Boitano was known as a great technician but not much of an artist. In fact, Dick Button once described his programs as "artistic wastelands". In Calgary, Boitano put it all together, and he skated a masterful long program. His marks were good, nothing lower than 5.7, and many 5.9s, but the judges were leaving room for Orser, who skated after Boitano.

    Orser skated to "The Bolt" and showed off his quick-footed artistry. Brian landed a triple axel/double toe and got off to a strong start. However, in the middle of his program, he fell out of a planned triple flip, and the audience gasped. Later, he doubled a planned triple axel, and he appeared to lose steam and energy towards the end of the program. His final jumps were quite small. Still, when he finished, he clasped his hands in victory, as though he felt that he had won the competition. The scores were so close! It was a 5/4 judges decision for Boitano.

    The bronze medal was won by 18-year-old Victor Petrenko of the Soviet Union. Skating to "Don Quxiote", Victor landed triple after triple and showed strong presentation skills. He appeared to be the champion in the wings.

    The men's podium - Boitano, Orser, and Petrenko - was a showcase of wonderful skating talent and sportsmanship. Bravo to all of them.

    Calgary also was the Olympic debut of Kurt Browning, Paul Wylie, Christopher Bowman, and a bevy of other young, up and coming skaters. These guys skated in the next to the last flight of skaters, and watching them you knew that there would be some outstanding stars of the future.

    The Women's Competition:
    This was the "Battle of the Carmens" - reigning World Champion Katarina Witt of East Germany and former World Champion Debi Thomas of the US skated to selections from "Carmen". There was a great deal of media hype over their rivalry - the "East vs West" political thing - as well as their contrasting styles. Witt was a show skater of the first order. She played to the crowd, judges, and the media, while Thomas was a techical skater - all business. Witt was also stunningly beautiful, and the media clamored around her, anxious to take photos of her. The pressure on Witt and Thomas was sky-high, as both of them wanted desperately to win the gold medal. Witt, as a citizen of the GDR, knew that her country expected her to win, and Thomas, as an African-American, felt the pressure of competing to become the first black woman to win an Olympic title.

    Witt won the short program with a flashy "Broadway" theme. Her costume had caused some controversy, as it did not contain a skirt. Katarina added feathers to provide some coverage. Thomas' costume also raised a few eyebrows, at it was a one-piece jumpsuit. She skated to rock music, something that wasn't the norm in those days. Thomas landed a double toe/triple toe combination, which was more difficult than Witt's triple toe/double toe, but Witt won the day. Debi's coach, Alex McGowan, held his fingers to his nose when her scores were read. Clearly, he wasn't pleased.

    The long program featured two Carmens. Katarina's Carmen was flirty, saucy, and she "died" in the end, as Carmen died in the opera. However, there was a mid-section that involved a lot of posing and simple moves instead of jumps and other difficult elements, and her technical scores were relatively low - 5.6 to 5.8. While Witt earned many 5.9s for presentation, there was room for another skater to win the title.

    Elizabeth Manley of Canada came into the long program in third place. She skated the LP of her life and landed five perfect triples, none in combination, but still gorgeous, nonetheless. The mid section of her program was skated to a lovely piece, "Candian Concerto", and it showcased her strong spins. The crowd went wild when she finished her program, and she rushed to her coach, placed a white cowboy hat on her head, and pumped her fists in victory. Liz won the long program, and with it, the silver medal.

    Debi Thomas's program unraveled from her opening move - a planned triple toe/triple toe combination which she two-footed. It seemed that Debi lost heart and/or just gave up after that one mistake, and she fell out of two other planned triples. The audience gasped with every mistake. After she fell out of the second triple, Dick Button commented, "What a sad night this is for Debi." Her scores dropped her to the bronze medal. Peggy Fleming hugged her in the kiss 'n cry area, but what could anyone say to console Debi at that moment?

    Midori Ito of Japan turned in, IMHO at least, the most electrifying long program, with seven strong triples, including a triple toe/triple toe. She pumped her fist at the end of her program and received a standing, noisy ovation. Ito was so overcome with joy that she burst into tears as she took her bows. She finished third in the long program - high technical marks but mediocre presentation marks and fifth overall. Ito's school figures kept her out of contention for the medals.

    Jill Trenary of the US finished fourth. She skated to selections from "Nutcracker" and skated well, but a little tentatively. The other American skater, Caryn Kadavy, the reigning World bronze medalist, was forced to withdraw from the competition prior to the long program, due to a case of flu.

    The Pairs Competition:
    Katia Gordeeva/Sergei Grinkov win their first Olympic gold medal in Calgary. Katia had become quite a media favorite, and the press followed them to their offsite training location. They won both the short and long programs. Their long program was skated to selections from Mozart and other composers and showcased their speed, power, and unison. Sandra Bezic was quoted as saying that their performance was "heaven. It was everything pairs skating should be. Sergei presented Katia so beautifully, like a cherished little sister."

    Elena Valova/Oleg Vasiliev, the gold medalists from 1984, won the silver medal with two strong performances, and Americans Jill Watson/Peter Oppegard won the bronze medal, despite a rather jarring fall in their long program.

    The Ice Dance Competition:
    Soviets Natalia Bestemianova/Andrei Bukin won the gold medal convincingly, but their rather garrish costumes and frenetic choregraphy was criticized by the press. Natlia repeatedly "squatted" in front of her partner - a move that looked almost vulgar. It wasn't pretty, but it won the gold medal.

    The silver medal was won by Marina Klimova/Sergei Ponomorenko of the Soviet Union, and the bronze medal was won by Canadians Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall.

    The brother-sister team of Paul and Isabelle Dushanay of France were the real stars of this competition, IMHO. Their African routine/costumes was stunning and blew the roof off the Saddledome. They did not medal, but they sure won the crowd that night.

    What a great, great competition!!!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkateFan4Life
    The Calgary Winter Olympics were one of my all-time favorites. Absolutely outstanding figure skating competitions. I've enjoyed viewing my videotapes from time to time, and here are my impressions:

    The Men's Competiton:
    1988 was the "Battle of the Brians". What can I say - it was one of the finest nights of Olympic men's figure skating ever (IMHO, of course). Canadian Brian Orser, the defending World Champion was a slight favorite over the 1986 World Champion, Brian Boitano of the USA. Both Brians skated their hearts out at Calgary, and many of us wish that there could have been two gold medals awarded at that competition.

    Orser won the short program and Boitano was second, but with the combined school figures scores, Boitano was in first place going into the long program, with Orser a very close second. Essentially, whoever won the long program would win the gold medal.

    Boitano skated to the theme from the television program "Napoleon", and his program featured eight triple jumps, two of which were triple axels.

    What a great, great competition!!!
    I absolutely agree this was a great men's competition and a wonderful Olympics overall -- still one of my all-time favorites. There was so much to love about all of the categories. Thanks for for reviewing it.

    Just one small correction -- and not your fault, either, since the ABC announcers are the ones who perpetrated this in the first place.

    Brian Boitano did NOT skate his long program to music from a television program "Napoleon" (the ABC announcer says a miniseries "Napoleon and Josephine," which wasn't even on TV until the fall of 1987, by which time Boitano had already skated his LP at Skate Canada). The music was actually Carmine Coppola's re-scoring of the old silent movie "Napoleon." I actually found that old silent movie and watched it and all of Brian's music DID come from it -- and Bezic did an amazing job of cutting, because there were probably 15 or so edits and yet it all fitted together very well.

    I assume the ABC announcer saw "Napoleon" on his crib sheet and just decided that MUST mean the most recent "big" TV miniseries, and so created the misinformation of what music Brian actually skated to.

    But again, thanks for the wonderful review. I need to break out my tapes and watch some of those outstanding performances again ... let's see, G&G? Duchesnays? Wilson & McCall? Midori? The Brians? Or something else? It was all so good.

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    Where can I download some of those performances?

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    Calgary 1988 is still my all-time favorite Winter Olympics. I loved the opening ceremonies and I became "hooked" on figure skating thanks to the "Battle of the Brians" (IMHO, still the most wonderful men's competition ever) and Midori Ito's amazing free skate & reaction after it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by iluvtodd
    Calgary 1988 is still my all-time favorite Winter Olympics. I loved the opening ceremonies and I became "hooked" on figure skating thanks to the "Battle of the Brians" (IMHO, still the most wonderful men's competition ever) and Midori Ito's amazing free skate & reaction after it.
    One of the great things about Calgary was that all of the long programs for all four disciplines were aired on LIVE television. Talk about drama! We were holding on to the edge of our seats watching the "Battle of the Brians", and when Boitano won, we went nuts.

    The women's long program coverage was truly memorable, in that the majority of the skaters were shown - not just the skaters in the last flight. Some of the lesser ranked skaters had technical problems, but I thought they all looked wonderful. What a thrill for all of them to compete in the Olympics.

    The ABC coverage had a piece on "competitive nerves" that focused on Elaine Zayak, the 1982 World Champion, who won that title after losing her US title with a disastrous long program at Nationals. Elaine said she had been a nervous wreck going into the Worlds long program, and she had a long talk with her coach that calmed her fears. She realized that what she was feeling was normal competitive butterflies, not a lack of confidence, as she knew she could land her multiple triple jumps. She landed six triples and vaulted from 7th place to 1st place.

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    I was only 8 at the time of the 88 Olympics. I remember watching it on CTV and later after the event they flashed back to seeing Orser's mom outside when the marks were coming up, she was so nervous, and after the second scores, she kind of let out a nervous scream, and she was told there was one 6.0, the reporter asked her if that was enough to do it, and she said "oh I am not sure" knowing he had some small mistakes. It was nerve wracking to watch the scene even though it was after the fact. They never showed the reaction when she found out her son had lost the 5-4 split for the gold.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by slutskayafan21
    I was only 8 at the time of the 88 Olympics. I remember watching it on CTV and later after the event they flashed back to seeing Orser's mom outside when the marks were coming up, she was so nervous, and after the second scores, she kind of let out a nervous scream, and she was told there was one 6.0, the reporter asked her if that was enough to do it, and she said "oh I am not sure" knowing he had some small mistakes. It was nerve wracking to watch the scene even though it was after the fact. They never showed the reaction when she found out her son had lost the 5-4 split for the gold.
    I'm glad CTV did not show Mrs. Orser's reaction after she knew that her son had finished second. That would have been very intrusive, in my opinion.

    ABC, however, aired the reaction of Debi Thomas' mother when she stumbled on her opening 3/3 toe combination. Mrs. Thomas sort of slumped into her seat, with an "Oh, no, she's blown the program!" look. Horrible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkateFan4Life
    I'm glad CTV did not show Mrs. Orser's reaction after she knew that her son had finished second. That would have been very intrusive, in my opinion.

    ABC, however, aired the reaction of Debi Thomas' mother when she stumbled on her opening 3/3 toe combination. Mrs. Thomas sort of slumped into her seat, with an "Oh, no, she's blown the program!" look. Horrible.
    I personally hate when cameras zoom on people, or people close to those people, at their lowest and most crushing moments, and they show the despair and obvious heartbreak of those close watching them. In moments of uncertainty and tension like was with Orser's mom before the result was known it was ok, but I am glad, like you said, they cut out before the part where she realized her son finished 2nd. She deserves privacy in that moment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slutskayafan21
    I personally hate when cameras zoom on people, or people close to those people, at their lowest and most crushing moments, and they show the despair and obvious heartbreak of those close watching them. In moments of uncertainty and tension like was with Orser's mom before the result was known it was ok, but I am glad, like you said, they cut out before the part where she realized her son finished 2nd. She deserves privacy in that moment.
    I agree with you completely.

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    I love your summaries of these big events, they are alot of fun to read. I have watched the ones from 88-onwards myself, but I still enjoy reading somebody elses perspectives on it. The 88 Olympics is still one of my favorite skating events of all time even though it was one of my first to ever watch.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by slutskayafan21
    I love your summaries of these big events, they are alot of fun to read. I have watched the ones from 88-onwards myself, but I still enjoy reading somebody elses perspectives on it. The 88 Olympics is still one of my favorite skating events of all time even though it was one of my first to ever watch.

    Thanks, Slutskayafan21. I'm glad you enjoy my long-winded summaries. There was so much to love about the figure skating competition at the 1988 Olympics. It was truly memorable. Kudos to all of the figure skaters who participated in this fabulous competition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkateFan4Life
    Thanks, Slutskayafan21. I'm glad you enjoy my long-winded summaries. There was so much to love about the figure skating competition at the 1988 Olympics. It was truly memorable. Kudos to all of the figure skaters who participated in this fabulous competition.
    Yeah one of the best ever Olympics, no doubt.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by slutskayafan21
    Yeah one of the best ever Olympics, no doubt.
    Absolutely! 1988 stands out as one of the best-ever Olympics, as far as the figure skating competitions were concerned. It was outstanding!!

  14. #14
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    I also remember 16-year-old Katia Gordeeva, who become a media darling at Calgary. She and Sergei, along with other members of the USSR figure skating team, trained at a facility outside of Calgary, and the arena was packed with fans and local residents for their practices. Katia's English wasn't particularly fluent in those days, but she was so charming, with a "Good morning, everybody" to the press.

    Katia and Sergei's long program was absolutely beautiful, and it set the standard for the competition, a standard that none of the other pairs could match.

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