I viewed my videotapes of the 1992 Winter Olympics the other evening and greatly enjoyed the spectacular figure skating competition. It was fantastic! My impressions of the women's competition:
1989 World Champion Midori Ito came into Albertville as the gold medal favorite, thanks to her victory at Trophee Lalique the previous fall (in the Olympic arena), and especially thanks to the fact that this was the first Olympics without the school figures in the singles competition – her weakness.
Midori was awesome in her early Alberville practice sessions, landing triple/triple combinations and her triple axel/double toe with ease. Evy Scotvold, Paul Wylie's coach, told members of the press, "Midori is outjumping the men". The Japanese press and many others from around the world besieged her, however, and the stress and pressure took its toll on Ito as the women’s competition drew closer. She began to miss her triple axel and was clearly losing some of her confidence.
In the short program warm-up, Midori started to warm up her entrance to the triple lutz, and Scott Hamilton, Verne Lundquist, and Tracey Wilson commented that it appeared that Midori was making a last-minute chance – substituting the triple lutz/double toe. Scott said, “I would never change my competitive program at the last minute, but it looks as though that’s exactly what Midori is planning to do.” She approached her triple lutz, rotated, and fell flat on the ice. She sprang up and landed the double toe. Midori’s marks were generous, however, and she was still in the hunt for a medal.
Kristi Yamaguchi, the defending World Champion, who had finished second to Ito at the Trophee Lalique competition, skated a beautiful short program to “Blue Danube”. Her triple lutz/double toe was landed a bit “forward”, but it was a clean combination. Hamilton said, “In my opinion, this is one of the finest competitive short programs, if not the finest.” When Kristi skated to the boards, her coach, Christy Ness, embraced her and said, “Beautiful, honey”. It surely was. She was in first place after the short program.
Nancy Kerrigan, the US silver medalist and defending World bronze medalist, skated a strong short program to music that was composed for her by Mark Militano, a former US pairs champion. She skated a very strong program and finished second to Yamaguchi. Nancy looked very confident in her short program performance.
Tonya Harding, the US bronze medalist and defending World silver medalist, took herself out of the medal hunt by falling on her triple axel in her short program. Harding had elected to arrive late at Albertville, and perhaps she was suffering from jet lag. In any case, she crashed on the triple axel, and the rest of her short program looked very flat.
None of the top women skated a clean long program. Yamaguchi nearly fell on her triple loop, and she watered her triple salchow to a double salchow. Ito fell on her first triple axel attempt but landed the second triple axel (the first triple axel by a woman skater in Olympic competition). Kerrigan made numerous mistakes and clearly looked as though she had blown her opportunity to win a medal. IMHO, her bronze medal was a gift. Harding skated a strong long program, but without the triple axel. IMHO, Harding outskated Kerrigan, and she would have won the bronze, had she not been in sixth place after the short program.
Final result – Yamaguchi, Ito, and Kerrigan. Harding finished fourth.
The medal ceremony was so uplifting, in my opinion. Kristi became the first American woman to win Olympic gold since Dorothy Hamill in 1976. Her parents and sister were in the stands, clearly thrilled with her victory. Kristi looked as though she could hardly believe it when the gold medal was presented to her. Midori Ito appeared happy with her silver medal, and the large contingent of Japanese fans waved “rising sun lanterns”. Nancy Kerrigan looked very happy to win the bronze, and her parents were very emotional during the playing of the National Anthem.