Here we go again - I viewed my videotapes from the CBS-TV coverage of the 1989 World Figure Skating Championships, which were held in Paris. It was a grand, glorious, and memorable competition.
Without a doubt, one of the highlights was the gold-medal performance of Japan's Midori Ito, who became the first woman to land the triple axel at the Worlds and also became the first Japanese woman to win the World title. Midori had always been a dynamic, if somewhat less than artistic, free skater, but she was always held back by her relatively weak execution of the school figures, which then comprised 30 percent of the overall score. Midori skated the best figures of her life and finished sixth in that phase of the competition. She then went on to win, convincingly, both the short and long programs, and she won the World title over Claudia Leistner of West Germany and Jill Trenary of the United States. Midori's technical marks were five 6.0s and four 5.9s. Scott Hamilton, commentating, practically screamed (as did the audience) when those marks were displayed. They were richly deserved. Midori had landed seven triples - the lutz, axel, flip, loop, triple toe/triple toe, and salchow - each one perfectly executed, and her artistic presentation was greatly improved. Ito was so overjoyed with her performance that she left the ice in tears. The "Jumping Flea" reigned in Paris.
In contrast, Leistner and Trenary skated cautious programs with several errors.
Certainly, they deserved their medals, but they were not in Ito's class. Jill said later that she had been very nervous throughout the competition. She and Ito shared the ice during practices, and Jill had been psyched out by watching Ito land triple after triple.
The 1989 Worlds was also the competition in which Canada's Kurt Browning won the first of his four World titles. He finished fifth in the school figures and won both the short and long programs - very convincingly. In those days, a skater could repeat the triple axel in the short program, and Kurt landed two of them, one solo, the other in combination. His long program featured a slightly two-footed quad toe, a fallout on one triple axel, but a series of beautifully landed triples, including a second triple axel in combination. Browning had grown as an artistic skater, and his presentation marks were high - not as high as his excellent technical marks - but very high.
When Kurt was asked what he was feeling, after he knew that he had won, he said, "I don't feel anything yet. I've been sitting here thinking of all the things that happen to World champions, and now they're going to happen to me." Kurt said that almost ruefully, as though he anticipated that winning the World title would carry a great deal of responsibility as well as adulation.
Christopher Bowman, the newly-crowned US men's champion, won the silver medal with a strong long program that included a fallout in the triple axel and no triple axel in his short program. The bronze was won by Gregorz Filipowski of Poland, a wonderful journeyman competitor who had previously always made just enough mistakes to miss the podium. Not this time. He actually finished ahead of Bowman in the freeskate, and that fine performance won him the bronze medal.
As always, I was mesmerized at the performances of Katia Gordeeva and Sergi Grinkov of the USSR, who regained their World title. Unbenownst to many, Katia and Sergi's romance had begun shortly before that Worlds, and their closeness was evident in their wonderful short and long programs.
The performances, overall, showed a great deal of imagination and artistry, and especially in the singles skaters, who at that time had to spend a considerable amount of their training time tracing the school figures. While there were many jumps - primarily triples - the programs were musical and showed a lot of thought and creativity.
Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko of the Soviet Union won their first World title in Paris. They were elegant and musical, as always.