I viewed my videotapes from the 1990 World Figure Skating Championships, held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. What a great championship it was! This Worlds was memorable for many things, one of which was that it was the last Worlds in which the compulsory school figures were a part of the competition. The combined scores for the singles competition were: 20% figures, 30% short program, and 50% long program.
Japan's Midori Ito came into Halifax as the defending World Champion, and she was favored to retain her title. Although the school figures were the weakest part of her repertoire - she was a fabulous jumper and became the first woman to land a triple axel in World competition in 1989 - Midori had improved her figures and had performed the best figures of her life the previous year. Sadly for Midori, she blew the figures at Halifax. The television cameras were rolling during part of this competition, and she nearly fell midway through one of the figures. The tracings were all over the map, instead of being right on top of each other, as they should be. Ito was scored from 10th to 24th on that figure, and she finished 10th overall in that phase of the competition. "Sports Illustrated" reported that "Ito's tracings resembled the Santa Fe railroad". Ouch.
Midori, being the superb competitor she was, rebounded back by winning both the short and long programs. After winning the short, she was in fourth place overall. She could retain her title, but only if she won the long program, and the three skaters who were in front of her finished no higher than third in the long program. All of this convulated scoring was due to the school figures being in the scoring mix. Scott Hamilton, commemtating, said "I was up all night trying to figure out the possible scenarios." Ito's long program featured a fantastic triple axel - higher and cleaner than most of the triple axels performed by the men.
Jill Trenary of the USA had finished third at the 1989 Worlds, with a tentative long program. She had been criticized for "choking" in the long program, and she said she her nervousness had caused her to double and/or single her final planned triples. She came into Halifax determined to skate her best, and to let the chips fall where they may. She won the school figures, but she blew the short program. Instead of performing a triple toe/double toe combination, Jill skated a double/double. She finished fifth in the short program and was in third place heading into the freeskate. Trenary was in tears after the short, and the TV cameras were rolling as she cried, with her coaches Christa and Carlo Fassi attempting to console her. Announcer Pat O'Brien said, "The next day I spoke with Trenary's people and asked if Jill had woke up smiling. They responded, "No, she woke up fighting".
Jill skated a great long program, with four strong triples. She slipped on her planned half axel/triple salchow, but otherwise, she nailed all of her jumps, and she skated like a champion. She was ecstatic when she finished, as she knew she could finish second in the long program and still won the World title. Indeed, her technical scores were all 5.7 and 5.8, and she received six 5.9s for presentation.
Kristi Yamaguchi finished fourth at the 1990 Worlds. This was her last competition as a dual competitor - in pairs with Rudi Galindo and as a singles skater. Kristi fell twice in her long program but still received high marks, as she
landed two clean triple lutzes.
The real surprise was Holly Cook, who had finished third at the US Nationals. In her first Worlds, Holly shocked everyone by winning the bronze medal. She had skated excellent school figures and a clean short program, so she was in second place going into the long program. While her long program wasn't particularly artistic, and it lacked the technical difficulty of Ito, Yamaguchi, and Trenary, the scoring mix enabled her to finish fourth in the long program and still win a medal. The scene in the kiss 'n cry was priceless. As her scores were displayed and Holly and her coach realized she had won the bronze medal, Holly screamed, "I'm third. I'm third. I'M THIRD!!!"
After the competition was over, Jill was embraced by her father. Her dad asked her, "How do you feel?" Jill responded, "I don't know. I don't feel anything yet."
She appeared to be a little bit in shock when she stood at the podium and heard the US National Anthem played. Pat O'Brien asked Jill if the removal of the school figures would influence her decision to turn pro. She responded that she wanted to take time to reflect about that during the summer.
Kurt Browning came into Halifax as his country's hero - defending World Champion and "Rock Star on Skates". Kurt's fall competitive season had not gone so well, as he had finished third in two competitions. In an interview, Browning said (to paraphrase) "After I won the Worlds, I thought that I could never fall again. Champions aren't supposed to fall. It put a great deal of pressure on me, trying to be perfect." At Halifax. Kurt skated good figures, and pulled out his short program with a wing and a prayer. He had doubled his planned triple axel, so he threw the triple axel at the end of his program. His long program was strong and well skated, although a few of the triples had rocky landings. The fans screamed their adulation for Kurt. After he completed his long program, he skated to a group of teenage girls, who almost smothered him with hugs. He was showered with stuffed animals and balloons.
Viktor Petrenko had won the short program and seemed poised to challenge for his first World title. However, Viktor ran out of steam during the second half of his free skate, and he had to settle for secon place. Verne Lundquist, commentating, said, "There's a look of chagrin on Viktor's face that wasn't there at the European Championships." He seemed disappointed with his skate but was pleased to win a World medal.
Christopher Bowman finished third at Halifax. Although he skated well, the real news surrounded his less than warm and fuzzy relationship with his coach, Frank Carroll. The piece showed them arguing prior to the school figures competition. Frank walked out of the arena just prior to Christopher's turn to skate the figures. Bowman looked all over the place for his coach, who was going to help him select a good patch of ice, but he could not find him. After he skated his figures Carroll reappeared, and Bowman asked what had happened. Carroll replied, "Well, I was busy." Say what????