I viewed my videotape of the 1980 Winter Olympics, held in Lake Placid, New York. Here are some of my impressions -all my own opinions, of course.
The men's competition:
How far the bar has been raised, technically, during the past 25 years! Great Britain's Robin Cousins, who won the gold medal, landed three triple jumps - a triple loop, triple toe, and triple walley. He landed an absolutely huge delayed single axel, two clean double axels, a double flip, double lutz, and a variety of crisp, fast spins. Robin's choreography was very interesting and intricate, and part of his music was taken from the soundtrack of "Murder on the Orient Express". Watching this program, I thought, "Robin deserved to win, and he's been a wonderful Olympic champion - but if he was competing today, he'd be a junior-level skater." And the same can be said for the rest of the men.
The men's silver medalist, East Germany's Jan Hoffman, skated a long program that was, quite frankly, pretty limited in artistic content. He landed several triples, but they were landed a bit awkwardly, and he showed little, if any musical interpretation. I recall that a "Sports Ilustrated" article on the figure skating competition included a photo of Hoffman with the remark that "Hoffman looked like an expertly spinning oak tree as he performed". Not exactly complimentary. Hoffman went on to win the World title a few weeks after Lake Placid.
Charlie Tickner of the USA, the men's bronze medalist, landed two triples, a number of doubles, and skated a good, but not great, long program. He seemed to be almost unaware of the music and was just using it as a vehicle to spring up and land jump after jump.
The fourth and fifth placed men, America's David Santee and Scott Hamilton, respectively, skated clean long programs and did well to place as high as they did. Santee skated to selections from "Rocky" - music he skated to for several competitive seasons. I would call his skating strong and solid. Hamilton skated with a lot of speed and exhuberance, if not with a lot of style.
In those days, none of the men performed triple axels, and most of them also did not perform triple lutzes. Again - how far the men have come! On the other hand, I don't remember the long list of injuries that plagues today's skaters. The men in those days stayed relatively healthy and injury-free, for the most part.
The ladies' competition:
IMHO, Denise Biellman of Switzerland should have won the gold medal, with her outstanding, athletic skating - her triple lutz and the wonderful Biellman spin. Instead, she had to settle for fourth place, out of the medals. Denise was not a great compulsory school figures skater, and her placement in that phase kept her off of the Olympic podium. I liked her jazzy, strong style and her great jumps. She was clearly a champion in the wings.
The women's gold medalist, Annet Poetzsch of East Germany, presented a long program to the sountrack of "Funny Girl" - an obvious attempt by her coach Jutta Muller to appeal to the American audience. Annet stumbled on one of her two triple attempts and only landed one triple jump. Her jumping technique was quite stilted, in my opinion, yet she seemed to convey a joy of skating and had some nice moments in the program. She was a strong school figures skater and had won that phase of the competition. Annet finished fourth in the short program and third in the long program, yet her overall points were enough to carry the day for her. She was the first East German woman to win Olympic gold, and she was quite emotional when her country's anthem was played.
I enjoyed American Linda Fratianne's "Carmen" long program, and watching it, I thought, "This was a better long program than Poetzsch". She landed two triples at the beginning of her program - salchow and toe - and landed a number of clean doubles. While there were no obvious mistakes or watering down of jumps, Linda did not present a fiery Carmen. She looked like a schoolgirl out there, trying to portray an adult character, IMHO. Linda had finished third in the school figures, first in the short, and second in the long. We all remember the controversy that surrounded the judges' decision. When all is said and done, however, Poetzsch won according to the rules.
The bronze medalist was West Germany's Dagmar Lurz, a lady who turned in a totally boring, uninspired long program (IMHO). Watching this I thought, "How in the world did this skater win the bronze and Biellman was left off the podium?" Of course, the cumulative scores told the story.
The pair's competition:
Again, I saw the heartbreaking withdrawal of US champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. Randy had injured his groin prior to the US Nationals and had reinjured the groin in a late night practice session at Lake Placid. As they were warming up for the short program, Randy attempted several double flip jumps and fell each time. Clearly, something was wrong. After all of the skaters had cleared the ice, Randy came out alone and attempted another double flip and landed on his seat. At that point, he skated to the boards, conferred with his coach John Nicks, and he and Tai were seen leaving the ice, with Tai in tears. Dick Button, commentating, said, "I don't feel sorry because they're Americans. I feel sorry because they have trained for so many years and have reached the point where they can show the world how great they are. What a luck of the draw!"
The Soviet Union's pair team of Irina Rodnina and Alexandr Zaietev won their second consecutive Olympic title (her third, as she had won in 1972 with former partner Alexsei Ulanov). Their long program was strong and solid, but, frankly, it wasn't artistic (IMHO). Just a lot of simple stroking and little, if any musical interpretation. At the end of their long program, they were clearly tired, and finished with a wimper, not with a bang. Yet, they won. It was nice to see that the pro-American audience, who had wanted to see Tai and Randy on the podium, enthusiatically cheer Irina and Alexandr.
Soviet pair Marina Cherkasova and Sergei Shakrai won the silver medal. I was amused as I watched them skate again. Marina was a tiny wisp of a girl - probably no taller than 4'6", while Sergei was around 5'10" or so. As a result of their huge height difference, Sergei threw his partner in the air like a rag doll.
They skated with unison, but their height difference and Marina's tiny body made them look like a very mismatched pair - sizewise - in my opinion. Still, they skated well enough in the judge's view to win the silver medal.
Kitty and Peter Carruthers, the US pairs silver medalists, skated well and finished fifth. Not bad for your first major senior international competition.
Pairs skating has clearly advanced, technically speaking, during the past two decades. None of the pairs at Lake Placid performed the kind of triple twist lifts, throw triples, and side-by-side triples that are standard fare in today's top pairs.
Cherkasova and Shakrai did perform a triple twist lift, but, again, it was so much a matter of an adult man throwing a little kid in the air that it did not look like the kind of twist lift that is done today - IMHO.
The ice dance competition:
Soviet dancers Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov won the gold medal with a performance that, IMHO, was strong but uninspired. There was a lot of posing but not much choregraphy and dancing. The audience clearly wasn't exactly thrilled with their performance, either, and they gave the Soviets tepid applause.
The silver medalists, Hungarians Kriztina Regoczy and Andras Sallay, skated a lively long program to folk music. They were the audience favorites and earned a loud ovation, but the marks weren't that generous (IMHO). Frankly, I thought they should have won the gold medal, as they performed more intricate steps and showed far, far more musical interpretation.
Another Soviet dance pair, Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov (known as "Min and Moe") won the bronze medal. I liked their long program and thought it was beautifully skated.
It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since Lake Placid!!