One of my all-time favorite World Figure Skating Championships was the 1991 Worlds, held in Munich. As a flag-waving American, I was thrilled to see the US women sweep the medals.
My fondest memory is the American women's clean sweep of the medals, the first time that all of the World medals were won in the women's event from skaters from the same country. Kristi Yamaguchi rebounded from her second-place finish at Nationals (behind Tonya Harding) and skated two beautiful and powerful programs, and she convincingly won her first World title. The footage of her and coach Christy Ness viewing the gold-medal scores is priceless - tears, screaming, jumping up and down, etc.
I think Ness was almost as excited and thrilled as Yamaguchi.
Tonya Harding skated very strong programs as well. Her short was jazzy and featured some terrific spins and high jumps. She landed her triple axel in the long program; however, she then skated to the opposite end of the rink and skated a single/double toe instead of a triple toe/triple toe combination. Tonya regrouped and landed a strong triple flip, loop, and performed some great spins. Towards the end of her program, she doubled another planned triple, which left her with less completed triples than Kristi. While Tonya received good marks in the 5.7 and 5.8 range, they weren't good enough to challenge Kristi, who received mostly 5.8s and 5.9.s. Tonya's musical choices really showcased her talent -- "Batman", "Send in the Clowns", and "Wild Thing".
Nancy Kerrigan was in fifth place after the short program. She skated a strong long program to "Born on the Fourth of July" and won the bronze medal. Nancy fell once, but otherwise, it was a nice program, and it had some very lovely, lyrical moments.
The medal ceremony was memorable, with three American flags raised. The Desert Storm War had just concluded, and many of the newspapers of the day carried headlines proclaiming "It's a new world order in women's figure skating - America leads the way".
Midori Ito came into the Worlds as the favorite, since this was the first time the competition was to be held without school figures, always the weakest part of her skating. During the warmup for her short program, Midori and Letitia Hubert of France collided, with both falling hard on the ice. Everybody in the rink gasped. While both skaters got up quickly, it was clear that Midori had taken the brunt of the collision, in her ribs, and with a blade that cut through her boot. She was taken to the trainer and returned to skate her short program.
Then, while skating her short program, Midori apparently misjudged the distance from her triple lutz/double toe combination takeoff, as she jumped right out of the rink and landed on top of the television camera. She sprang up immediately and completed her program. The judges gave her very generous marks that left her in third place after the short program. When Midori took to center ice to bow to the audience, she smilled a little sheepishly, and knocked her fist several times against her temple.
Unfortunately, Miidori's injuries kicked in, bigtime, the next day and she skated the long program in pain. It was hard to watch her performance - a single flip, a fall on a triple axel, and a double lutz with a two-footed landing. She managed to land a 3/3 toe combination towards the end of the program, but her marks kept her off the podium, in fourth place.
Jill Trenary had missed the 1991 Nationals, as she had undergone surgery for an injured ankle. She was interviewed from her home in Colorado Springs. While she was gracious as always, it was obvious that she wanted to be at Worlds, competing with the rest of the field. On the other hand, her absence did not make the slightest dent in the success of the US women. They completely dominated the competition.
Kurt Browning won his third consecutive World title with a strong program, with Viktor Petrenko taking second place again. Clearly, Viktor had thought his program was deserving of first place, as he looked very upset during the medal ceremony. While always a gentleman, Viktor's displeasure was evident. Todd Eldredge of the US won the bronze medal that year - his first of many World medals. He was then a19-year-old challenger who appeared to be well on the way to winning major titles. Todd said he was absolutely thrilled to have won the bronze.
Paul Wylie of the US finished 11th at this championship. It was yet another unfortunate case of the nerves getting the better of this wonderful skater. Many people thought he should have retired after that disappointing finish, but he remained in the game and won the silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Bravo, Paul!
Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won the World ice dance title, to loud acclaim. Their "Missing" program was skated with precision and confidence. After they knew they had won the championship, Isabelle ran into the arms of her then-fiance and choregrapher, Christopher Dean.
Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomorenko lost their title and had to settle for the silver medal. Their long program, skated to selections from "Lawrence of Arabia" was lovely. Frankly, I thought it was a lot better skated than the Duchesnay's program, and it featured terrific choregraphy, clean edges, and better overall skating.
Mai Usova and Alexander Zhulin won the bronze medal.
Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev of the USSR won their first World pairs title, with Canadians Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler winning another silver medal. Natasha Kuchiki and Todd Sand of the US won the bronze medal. This pair was quite unusual, in that Natasha was 14 years old and Todd was 27. Todd acted and looked like a protective older brother towards his partner.
Another fantastic Worlds!!