Tuesday, July 6

1992 World Championships: The Ladies Event

A review (thank you, YouTube members 3Axel1996 and Benben35) of the 1992 World Championship ladies short program. I started watching skating a year later, so it was my first time seeing some of these programs. The Worlds took place in Oakland, California, and some of the major stories leading into the event included:

-Kristi Yamaguchi was already the reigning World Champion and had just won the Olympic title in Albertville three weeks prior. Oakland is ten miles from her hometown so she obviously has huge fan support throughout the week. She would turn professional after the event.

-Olympic silver medalist Midori Ito of Japan decided to retire from amateur skating after the Games, leaving the fight for the rest of the medals somewhat open. (Note: Midori would come back to compete in the 1996 World Championships as the ISU allowed pro skaters to reinstate as amateur if they so chose).

-Among the possible medal threats were two French ladies: Surya Bonaly and Laetitia Hubert. Bonaly was no longer working with Didier and Annick Gailhaguet and was now being "coached" by her mom-- the commentators suggested that Surya was likely just coaching herself and that she may have been dumped by the Gailhaguets rather than the other way around. Hubert was coming off of her roller coaster Olympic experience where she was 5th in the short program and then 15th in the free skate, which, if you've seen the program, was probably even too generous. She earned the nickname "Human Zamboni" sometime shortly after; I think that is descriptive enough.

-Tonya Harding-Gillooly (yes, using her married name) fired coach Dody Teachman and choreographer Barbara Flowers after the Olympics and returned to Diane Rawlinson. She also realized (or used the excuse) that her blades had been incorrectly mounted and not properly sharpened earlier in the season, including while competing in Albertville, so she had them corrected before Oakland. During the three week span between events, she also had a new short program choreographed, to Moon River. Her prior short program that she had used all season, you ask? It was titled People are Still Having Sex. Oh, Tonya! For what it's worth, the music was kind-of cool.

-The American ladies had been on the podium at the World Championships for 22 years in a row coming into the 1992 Worlds. The streak would end with this event.

-There was all the talk about the big fields and having to reduce the sizes at the ISU Championships during this years Congress, even though back then there were 40 ladies entered!

-Notorious crazy judge Vanessa Reilly was judge number two on this panel. I'll make note of some of the mentionings of her placements as the review goes on. :-)

-The required elements were a bit different in 1992. The flying spin only needed to have six revolutions, as did the layback spin. The jump out of footwork had to be a double-- the only triple allowed was in the jump combination. The spiral sequence was such a throw-away element, as most of the ladies held their positions for a second maximum. You'll see a lot of complaining from me later on.


And now for the performances, along with the links so you can watch yourself. Most of the videos are from the Canadian broadcast of the event, while some of the lower-ranked ladies are from personal home videos.


American Nancy Kerrigan was first of the big names to skate, with starting position 5 of 40.  In the American broadcast, we get the special treat of seeing shots of her legally blind mother with her face pressed up against the television screen provided for her in the arena.. something we'd see much more of in the following years. Anyways, her music is listed as Paradise and The Master by Mark Militano, a former skater who ended up composing all (or at least most) of Kerrigan's short program music. Double Lutz/triple toe loop to open.. landed forwards on the toe loop and put her hands down and fell out. Trademark Kerrigan spiral as part of her sequence and a nice layback with a classic position. Spread eagle into double Axel. Flying camel spin, and typical Kerrigan build-up music into the circular footwork. Nice shoot-the-duck entrance into her double Lutz with her hands up beside her head, and a decent combination spin to finish. 3Axel1996 notes that there was question whether Kerrigan was allowed to do both a double Lutz as part of the combination and then another double Lutz as her individual jump, but the rules weren't exactly precise back then (example being that the men, a few years earlier, were able to do triple Axel/triple toe, triple Axel, and double Axel as their three jump elements in the short program because of unclear rules!). Normal program for Nancy, a bit cheesy on the choreography but it was the early 90's-- she wasn't the only one to suffer this problem.

5.5 5.0 5.2 5.1 5.3 5.5 5.4 5.3 5.4
5.7 5.7 5.6 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.7 5.7

After Kerrigan's marks, we see a Cutting Edge segment with Sandra Bezic. Wow, an underrotated triple Lutz was a problem even back in 1992! Surya Bonaly is used in the example to show that she only rotated 2.75 times before hitting the ice. Other mistakes and one clean jump are also shown from Bonaly, and another skater at the end that I can't identify.

A home video of Anisette Torp-Lind from Denmark is next, skating to Espana Waltz. Double Axel, triple Salchow with a fall-out into double toe loop, classic layback nicely done, circular footwork with a stumble right in front of the judges, flying camel not much lift and not a strong position. Torp-Lind is one of the skaters with spirals that are barely held as I mentioned in the opening. Double flip is tiny but done.   Combination spin with all mediocre to weak positions, especially the camel once again. She carries herself decently and has good speed throughout. Pleasant, but weak-ish spinning.

4.7 4.5 4.8 4.3 4.3 4.5 4.8 4.5 4.6
5.0 5.2 5.2 4.9 4.9 5.1 5.2 5.0 5.3

Another home video, this of Joanne Conway from Great Britain. Jazzy music. Triple toe landed forwards into double toe that had to be muscled out but done. Double Axel big and overrotated.. had to step out.. fast layback with good centering, spirals again typical pre-IJS: lots of positions and none that are great, double flip, flying camel is okay. Flashy choreography again to straight line footwork that has a nice variety of turns in both direction and a lot of personality throughout. Combination spin to end. Not bad. Kept up the speed and energy.

4.8 4.8 4.6 5.0 5.2 4.4 5.1 5.1 4.9
5.1 5.3 5.1 5.2 5.4 5.1 5.3 5.3 5.3

Kristi Yamaguchi of the USA is next. Blue Danube. Triple Lutz not the best of landings and no flow into double toe. No deduction, just not great. Steps into double flip with right hand tano-ed, layback with catchfoot at the end... working the IJS way ahead of its time! Spirals are actually held for more than a second in the beginning but all very basic and average positions. Circular footwork with nice flair, Nice combination spin with good positions. Double Axel again almost out of control but she fought for it. Flying camel with an illusion to end. Standing ovation. I think the program is nice but this performance really just screamed "business as usual" to me rather than anything memorable. I'm sure it was hard to keep the energy up after her Olympic win. I think the marks were just slightly generous. I probably would have gone for 5.7/5.8.

5.8 5.7 5.8 5.7 5.7 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8
5.9 5.9 5.9 5.8 5.9 5.9 5.9 5.8 5.9

Lu Chen from China skating to Unchained Melody and Beetlejuice since they relate so well together. It happened a lot in the 80's and early 90's-- don't ask. Mentioning of her struggles in the short program as she starts: 11th in Olympics, 9th in World Juniors. Barb Underhill says that Chen comes closest to Yamaguchi in combining grace and athleticism. Nice speed into triple Lutz/double toe loop-- her typical no run-out landing on the Lutz but it was huge. Spirals seriously make me wonder why it took until 2010 for them to be removed from the short program. Layback good center but only a so-so position. Music changes to Beetlejuice now and it's fun but she still has the same serious look in her face. Relatively simple steps into double flip. Flying camel again so-so with not much fly. Circular footwork with no real energy even though the music begs for it. Double Axel is good. Fast combination spin with some interesting variations but just mediocre positions throughout. Good (but not great) technically, and really reserved. No sign of the artist she would be just a few years later.. just average basics.

5.3 5.6 5.7 5.5 5.5 5.7 5.6 5.3 5.6
5.5 5.6 5.6 5.4 5.4 5.6 5.7 5.3 5.6

Patricia Neske from Germany, skating to Morning to Morning by David Foster. Triple Salchow with a step-out into double toe loop, nice double Axel, flying camel with a stretch variation. Spiral sequence is done to the music but, as usual, nothing too difficult. A basic combination spin but all very good positions and fast. Circular footwork is okay.. easy steps into double flip.. nicely done. Gentle choreography into a layback that is perfectly centered, fast, and has a deep back arch. Best spins so far and a soft quality to her but nothing really stood out aside from the great spins. She had some strong results back in the days of the compulsory figures but dropped once they were removed from competition after 1990.

4.9 4.6 5.2 5.0 5.0 5.1 5.3 4.9 5.3
5.2 5.2 5.4 5.3 5.3 5.5 5.4 5.1 5.5

Nathalie Krieg from Switzerland next, who would have been 14 at this event. Jazzy music. Triple toe loop with free leg still really wrapped/double toe loop but clean and rotated. Really grinds to a halt before the double Axel--- popped and came down after 1 rotation on two feet. Fast layback with a catch-foot... big audience applause for that. Of course in the tradition of Denise Biellmann, she continues the great Swiss spinning. Spirals with some decent positions. Steps into double flip with hands on face.. lots of energy.. flying sit done well... still carrying loads of energy and I think she clipped the boards and fell. It looks like it was right in the beginning of a serpentine-ish footwork sequence... right back into character and into a combination spin with a perfect Biellmann and y-spin... ends in a full split. Spins obviously way ahead of her time and the character was definitely there.. just maintained maybe a bit too much energy which caused the fall. The audience loved it. Lots of transitional moves throughout even though it wasn't asked of back then!

4.2 4.4 4.3 4.0 4.8 4.9 4.5 4.5 4.7
5.1 5.4 5.3 4.9 5.4 5.4 5.2 5.2 5.2

Laetitia Hubert from France next. Her music is Petite Fleur and In the Mood, which work well together.  Won the World Junior Championship just a few months before this event. Already showed how fast she flew around the rink back then. Starts off with spirals which were never her strength.. no position held longer than a second and all of the positions weak. Always gets as close as possible to the boards on crossovers. Triple loop/ double toe loop.. big and well done. Layback is slow and drops the free leg into an ugly position with slight travel. Music picks up, as does her speed-- if that's even possible! Double Axel with plenty of speed coming out. Combination spin is average. Double flip is okay, and coach screams go go go go at the boards before the straight line steps, which have nice personality. She definitely had fun with this program. Flying sit which is also just okay. Mentioned that she was 26th in the short in the 1991 Worlds, and she was the one who ran into Midori Ito in the warm-up there. Throughout her career, her skating was so fast that her arms really flailed around without much refinement. She was even messier here than in her later days. Spins and spirals were really nothing to write home about but I think the judges really loved her speed.

5.5 5.6 5.6 5.3 5.4 5.6 5.5 5.4 5.4
5.5 5.5 5.7 5.3 5.4 5.7 5.5 5.4 5.6

Teammate Surya Bonaly is next. We are reminded that she was third in the short program in Albertville. Seagull-sounding waves to begin but then it's Zorba the Greek. I would have never guessed. Double Axel with little preparation.. typical Surya. Triple Lutz slightly underrotated (just as they showed in the Cutting Edge clip) and fell. Serpentine footwork with a lack of energy probably because of the fall but still a nice sequence. Layback is nicely centered and fast. Back to wave sounds for spirals, some shakiness throughout. She was never one to look too secure on deep edges. Combination spin that includes a 1/2 Biellmann and a "Sasha" spin before Sasha did it so I'm not sure of the exact technical name! Double flip with hands extended over head.. flying sit with nice traveling entrance. The program actually had nice pacing, but her basic skating was obviously suffering.. story of her career. Andre Brunet was forced to sit with her in the kiss and cry even though he wasn't coaching her.

5.1 4.5 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.0 5.0 4.9 5.1
5.5 5.0 5.2 5.3 5.6 5.5 5.5 5.4 5.5

At this point, she's 7th. Vanessa Reilly has her 17th :-)

Yuka Sato from Japan next. Polovetsian Dances. Triple loop with a fall-out into double toe loop and the landing not held. Flying sit rough start to it and only 5 clean revolutions. Another deduction there. Double flip with hands at sides. Combination spin is fast with okay positions. Music slows, and there's a definite artistic quality. Yuka used a variation of this music 10+ years later to win the Hallmark Championship that I attended. Spirals and some moves in the field thrown in.. all very nicely done. Music picks up again into straight line footwork, which shows off her great basics and deep edges. Double Axel is nice... layback is fast but just an okay position. As a whole, I really liked the pacing of this program and she looks happy even with the mistake. Great basics, great sense of the music. One of my favorites of the day.

5.1 5.1 4.8 4.8 5.1 5.3 5.0 4.8 5.4
5.4 5.6 5.3 5.3 5.4 5.7 5.4 5.3 5.5

Karen Preston from Canada. Music is The Seasons by Glazunov. Back spiral into nice double Axel with big height. Triple flip/ double toe loop, forward on the landing of the flip but it was clean. Combination spin with all classic positions and average speed. Spiral sequence as music slows down. Leg is actually high but the positions aren't amazing. Layback spin with variations again average speed but nice. Straight line footwork is average once again.. looks a little heavy on her skates through all of the elements.. not as smooth as they could be. Double loop as the individual jump is okay. Flying camel with big traveling to start but it ended up centered... standing ovation. Annie Bellemare channeled her look completely ten years later.

5.0 5.1 5.2 5.4 5.4 5.6 5.5 5.2 5.5
5.2 5.1 5.1 5.4 5.3 5.5 5.4 5.2 5.7

Marina Kielmann from Germany is next. Mentionings that she was 15th in Olympics short, and problems in previous 2 European short programs as well, so this is definitely where she struggles. Marina is TALL. Spirals to start including a skid spiral. Really choppy basic skating, probably partially because of her roller skating background. Double flip with hands over head nice steps into it, Triple Lutz with a pre-rotation the size of Sarah Hughes' lutz/flip and underrotated into double toe. Wasn't pretty but to the naked eye casual fan, I'm sure it looked fine. Combination spin is well done. This is a different program from the Olympics three weeks prior. Circular footwork done in her main turning direction but it has energy. Double Axel step out-- of course!. Flying sit with a HUGE travel and fast rotation, layback with mediocre position. Her roller skating really gave her a strange technique on the ice. It was a nice program but again a mistake after landing the Lutz combination. The roller skating history, in my opinion, just gave her too many technique issues to work through.

5.0 4.3 4.8 4.8 5.1 5.1 4.9 4.9 5.0
5.3 4.9 5.1 5.2 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.4 5.4

11th place, but Reilly has her 23rd.

Josee Chouinard of Canada next. Well-done combination spin to start, and builds up the energy already. Double flip with hand over head and a step out, too much energy into it! Triple Lutz/double toe.. the toe had no run out at all and up on the toe pick, but clean. Great presentation. Music slows and the layback is nicely done... spirals are not great positions but she held the first few very nicely to the music. Picking back up.. flying sit is okay.. straight line step with audience clapping.. nicely done.. Double Axel is big and nicely done as well. Standing ovation from the Canadian part of the audience again.. and a nice ovation as a whole. Nice program.. another one of my favorites of the day. Stupid mistake on the flip but at least she pulled it back together.

5.2 5.1 5.3 5.2 5.4 5.4 5.7 5.4 5.5
5.5 5.5 5.6 5.4 5.5 5.7 5.7 5.5 5.6



Tonya Harding-Gillooly closes the show with her new program to Moon River. The aforementioned drama in her life is highlighted first. Spiral sequence to start.. mediocre positions but she held them! Amazing! Layback spin is well done with nice position. Picks up speed.. Ina Bauer into double flip.. loud cheers. No triple Axel anymore.. double Lutz with a step-out... no combination. Serpentine footwork doesn't really relate to the music but it's good... flying sit.. one of the best with a huge fly.. double Axel nicely done. Combination spin with great speed and nice positions. Besides the error on the jump combination everything was very good! Another program that shows Tonya was very capable of skating to the gentle and lyrical music.

5.2 5.0 5.3 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.3 5.3 5.4
5.6 5.3 5.7 5.7 5.7 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8



The final standings after the short program were
1. Yamaguchi; 2. Chen; 3. Kerrigan; 4. Harding; 5. Hubert; 6. Chouinard

Hubert led Kerrigan until the very last skater (Harding), I'm pretty sure, and then their positions flipped.

How would you have judged it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great, Tony. Love your blog!