I dusted off my old video highlights from the 1988 World Figure Skating Championships, held in Budapest, Hungary, and thoroughly enjoyed taking a little trip down memory lane. The 1988 Worlds were a little bittersweet in that they featured the final eligible competitive performances at Worlds from Brian Boitano, Brian Orser, Katarina Witt, Elizabeth Manley, and Debi Thomas - but they were filled with memorable moments and great programs.
Olympic gold medalist Katarina Witt of the German Democratic Republic won her fourth World title, but she did not deliver a particularly impressive performance. Katarina's school figures, always the weakest part of her repertoire, featured some noticeaby wobbly figures at this Worlds. One of her competitors, Elizabeth Manley of Canada, saw her last figure, and she and her coach both stated publicly that it was "way off axis". Still, the judges gave Witt first place in the school figures - perhaps giving a clear signal that you can't defeat an Olympic champion unless you really deliver a knock-out punch. Katarina only skated two triples in her "Carmen" long program, but it was good enough to win the gold medal. "Sports Illustrated" stated that it was a "very middling" long program. Can you imagine Michelle Kwan winning a World title with a long program that contained only two triples??
Liz Manley had won the Olympic silver medal in Calgary, much to the great delight of her countrymen, and she came into Worlds with a great deal of confidence and the determination to prove that her silver medal wasn't a fluke. Unfortunately, her tape broke just as she took to the ice to begin her short program. A replacement tape was quickly found and started, but Elizabeth's concentration was shattered, and she missed her combination jump. Her long program was strong, but she had to improvise towards the end of it and insert a triple jump that she missed at the beginning. She finished second. Her performance was strong, but it wasn't quite the stunning performance she had delivered at Calgary.
US Champion Debi Thomas had been disappointed at winning "only" the bronze at the Olympics. She skated solid compulsory figures and an excellent short program at the Worlds, and she was in a strong position to win the title. Had she landed all of her triples, she well might have pulled off a major upset.
Unfortunately, Debi skated a long program that was on par with Calgary - several missed triples - and she won the bronze medal.
This was the first time that Katarina's parents had been able to attend a World championship. Heretofore, the East German government refused to allow them to leave the country to attend the Worlds held in the western countries, including Denmark,
Finland, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States, perhaps fearing that Mr. and Mrs. Witt might be tempted to defect. But since Hungary was a socialist country, they were allowed to travel to the competition to see their daughter win her fourth and final World title.
US Champion Brian Boitano had skated the long program of his life at Calgary to win the Olympic gold medal, and while his performance at Budapest was very strong, it wasn't quite as excellent as his Olympic long program. Brian singled his second triple axel and stumbled on an attempted quad, but otherwise, he skated a strong long program, and it was good enough to win him his second World title.
Canadian Champion Brian Orser, on the other hand, pulled out the long program of his life at the Worlds - the program he would have loved to have skated at Calgary - which featured two triple axels and lots of speed. Orser won the long program at Worlds, but he had to settle for the silver medal, as he had made a major mistake in his short program that had left him in the position of needing help to win the gold medal. Orser could have won only if Boitano had finished third or lower in the long program.
Viktor Petrenko of the Soviet Union won the World bronze medal with a strong "Don Quixote" program. Clearly, he was a skater on the rise, and a champion of the future.
Alexander Fadeev of the Soviet Union had won the school figures, but he withdrew just prior to his short program. His withdrawal forced Brian Orser to skate his short program a few minutes ahead of schedule, and that change of schedule may have contributed to Orser's combination jump mistake.
At the 1988 Worlds, Kurt Browning of Canada, one of the "young guns", became the first skater in history to land a quadruple jump - the quad toe. He did turn around on the landing leg, but the ISU ratified the jump. Kurt finished third in the long program and sixth overall.
Katia Gordeeva/Sergi Grinkov had charmed the world with their gold medal win in Calgary. At the Worlds, however, they had to settle for the silver medal. Katia was suffering from the flu, and she fell on their throw triple salchow. They made a few other minor errors. Elena Valova/Oleg Vasiliev of the Soviet Union, the Olympic silver medalists, won the World title with a strong, clean long program. The Soviet skater swept the podium that year, as Larisa Selezneva/Oeg Makarov won the bronze medal.
Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard of the US had won the bronze medal at Calgary. During the long program warmup, they suffered a collision with another pair, with the other man's skate striking Jill's head. Watson/Oppegard were able to skate their long program, but the accident clearly threw off their timing. They made several errors and finished sixth overall.
Olympic champions Natalia Bestemianova/Andrei Bukin of the Soviet Union won their fourth and final World title, with their rather garrish long program. Natalia's costume featured a kind of "bubble" skirt, and some of their moves were, well, not very attractive. Natalia struck a kind of "squatting" pose several times that looked almost vulgar, in my opinion. Marina Klimova/Serei Ponomarenko won the silver medal, and Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall of Canada won the bronze medal. The Olympic podium was repeated at this Worlds.
"Sports Illustrated" published a wonderful article on this World Championship, and the final paragraph (to paraphrase) stated, "This World Championships was like a senior prom. Everybody was all dressed up in their finest outfits, and for many of them, it was the final time for them to socialize at the same place. For many of these skaters, this was the final time they would see each other in a competitive arena, for many of them are moving on to professional careers. It is with a twinge of sadness that we say farewell to this rich, bouyant chapter in the history of figure skating."
US Finishers at the 1988 World Championships:
Brian Boitano, 1st
Christopher Bownan, 5th
Paul Wylie, 9th
Debi Thomas, 3rd
Jill Trenary, 5th
Caryn Kadavy, 7th
Gillian Wachsman/Todd Waggoner, 4th
Jill Watson/Peter Oppegard, 6th
Natalie Seybold/Wayne Seybold, 10th
Susan Wunne/Joseph Druar, 9th