The ice is a slippery surface – a statement of fact for all skaters. Some of the greatest skaters of all time have had some memorable “whoops” competitive performances throughout the years. Here’s a few that come to mind:
1994 Winter Olympics:
Kurt Browning, the four-time World Champion, was heavily favored to win the Olympic gold medal that had eluded him at Albertville. Kurt came into Lillehamer well-trained and injury-free, and he had two superb programs to lay out to the judges. Alas –Kurt blew his short program, bigtime, with a fall on the triple flip and a single axel instead of a double axel. His technical scores were in the 4’s – absolutely unheard of for a skater was wonderful as Browning – and the marks left him buried him in 12th place heading into the long program. Kurt skated his classy “Casablanca” freeskate and finished fifth overall. Still – no Olympic medal for Kurt, much less the gold medal.
At those same Olympics, Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic champion, returned for what he hoped for was another trip to the podium. Indeed, he "tripped", but not the way he wanted to. Boitano fell out of his triple axel/double toe combination in the short program, and his marks left him with virtually no chance for a medal. His long program was solid, but again, he missed his triple axel/double toe combination, and he finished out of the medals.
1989 US Nationals:
Natalie and Wayne Seybold, the brother-and-sister pairs team from Marion, Ohio, who had represented the US at the 1988 Winter Olympics and had finished 10th, came into the 1989 US Nationals as the favorites to win their first title. They led after the short program, but disaster struck in the long program. Natalie fell from a throw triple salchow, he singled their side-by-side double axels, and Natalie then caught her toepick in the “other” skate as she was rotating in the air from her throw triple loop and crashed on the ice. The lace came loose, and they went over to the judges to ask for a reskate. The judges ruled that they had stopped by their own volition, not by an injury or equipment problem, and the Seybolds were instructed to pick up their program where they left off. It was hardly the opportunity they wanted to redeem themselves, but they managed to complete their program. Their scores were generous, I thought, considering the errors they committed, and they finished second behind first-time pairs champions Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudi Galindo. After the competition, the Seybolds said they thought they deserved to win the competition on the basis of their record of having represented the US in two Worlds and the last Olympic Games. And I naively thought that the judges were supposed to judge the performance and not the previous record!
1993 US Nationals:
Tonya Harding showed up about 25 pounds overweight. She fell several times in her long program, but managed to finished fourth overall. The change was astounding – going from the superbly trained athlete who had become the first American woman to land a triple axel to an under trained, overweight skater who couldn’t buy a triple jump. Egads.
Alexandr Fadeyev was in first place going into the long program, and seemed to be a cinch to make the podium. Alas, he singled his opening triple axel, fell out of his triple lutz, and missed two other triples. This long program had won him the 1989 European title, and it was a wonderfully choreographed routine, but it completely fell apart in Paris. Alexandr finished fourth, out of the medals.
These are just a few unfortunate performances that come to mind. Believe me, I winched as I witnessed these routines. All of these skaters were and are so talented, that to see them make these mistakes was shocking, to put it mildly.