Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The 1982 Skate Canada International Competition

The Canadian contingent at 1982 Skate Canada International. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine. Used with permission.

The Skate Canada International competition held from October 28 to 30, 1982 might have taken place just days before Hallowe'en, but the competition itself was far from scary. Held at the Kitchener Auditorium in Kitchener, Ontario, the international competition boasted forty seven competitors from thirteen countries. The event was broadcast on CTV and received major sponsorship from NOVA Corp, an Alberta based energy company. Although a pairs competition had not yet been added to the Skate Canada roster, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini were on hand to perform nightly exhibitions to music from "Cats", Vangelis and John Denver. World ice dance champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean also appeared to give special exhibitions at the event, although they did not compete. Let's take a brief look back at how things played out in each discipline in Kitchener back in 1982!

THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Rosalynn Sumners
The CFSA was left scrambling at the eleventh hour when - a week before the competition - Canadian Champion Kay Thomson withdrew due to injury. Also out was Elizabeth Manley, who had recently switched coaches and moved to Lake Placid to train with Emmerich Danzer. Seventeen year old Diane Ogibowski of Minnedosa, Manitoba was the third woman they had initially named to the Skate Canada team but there wasn't really a contingency plan in place to decide who would join her in Thomson and Manley's absence. A five competitor 'skate-off' was held and fifteen year old Monica Lipson of Toronto and sixteen year old Barbara Butler of Oakville were chosen.

The school figures were won by Finland's Kristina Wegelius with West Germany's Manuela Ruben second and Seattle, Washington's Rosalynn Sumners third. In the short program, only four of the eleven women competing skated cleanly. One of them was Ruben, who moved up to take the lead. Another was Vikki de Vries of the Broadmoor Skating Club in Colorado Springs, who finished second in the short program but remained in fourth place overall. Sumners fell on her combination jump but remained in second overall. The Canadians fared much worse. Lipson fell twice and sat in second, Obigowski was tied for ninth with Susan Jackson of Great Britain and Butler finished last.


Skating to a medley of tunes that included a steppy disco version of the "Gone With The Wind" theme, de Vries landed a nice triple toe-loop and triple Salchow early in her program but things got a little wonky as she went on. She managed to overtake a conservative Wegelius and a fumbling Sumners for the gold. Anna Kondrashova of the Soviet Union, who was second in the free skate, placed fourth and Manuela Ruben, the short program winner, fell apart and finished fifth. Ogibowski was eighth, Lipson ninth and Butler eleventh.

THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION

Annenko and Sretenski at 1982 Skate Canada International.  Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine. Used with permission.

Americans Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert withdrew due to illness, leaving eleven ice dance teams from eight countries to tango to the top. Canadians Tracy Wilson and Rob missed their opening cue in the second compulsory dance (the Argentine Tango) and restarted without penalty. They finished a strong second behind Americans Elisa Spitz and Scott Gregory, setting the stage for the exciting Rock N' Roll OSP.

At the St. Ivel competition in England the month before Skate Canada, Wilson and McCall had debuted their new OSP. It wasn't well received by the international judges so they scrambled to replace it on short notice, even enlisting the help of a radio station to get clearance rights to skate to "Stray Cat Strut".  With Rob sporting a greased back ducktail and Tracy in fishnets and a ponytail, they skated brilliantly. Three judges had them ahead of Spitz and Gregory; two had the duos tied. They got a huge standing O from the Kitchener crowd - Wilson's first ever - but the Soviet judge gave them a 4.8 and had them dead last of the eleven teams competing.


Contrasting their crowd-pleasing OSP with a dramatic free dance to music from the French film "Les Uns Et Les Autres", Wilson and McCall finished second overall behind the spunky Spitz and Gregory. Canadian commentators criticized the American's free dance as being too similar to pairs skating. Soviets Natalia Annenko and Genrikh Sretenski edged an injured Wendy Sessions and Stephen Williams for the bronze. Americans Renee Roca and Donald Adair, also recovering from injury, were seventh.

THE MEN'S COMPETITION

Brian Orser.  Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine. Used with permission.

One of the earliest precursors of the 'Battle Of The Brian's' in Calgary in 1988, the men's event at Skate Canada in 1982, was billed as the 'Battle Of The Triple Axels'. In his book "Orser: A Skater's Life", Brian Orser mused, "An American TV station did a split-screen comparison - 'Who had the better triple Axel?' - and showed Brian [Boitano] and me side-by-side going through our Axels."

Eleven men from nine countries competed in the school figures, where Axels meant little and loops everything. Boitano, the nineteen year old Linda Leaver student from California, came out on tops ahead of West Germany's Heiko Fischer, Poland's Gzregorz Filipowski and France's Philippe Paulet. Brian Orser finished a disappointing fifth, all but assuring an anti-climactic end to this 'battle' before it even began.




In an almost identical scenario to the one that would play out two years later at the Sarajevo Olympics, Brian Orser found himself ahead of an American in both the short program and free skate... but second overall. And just as would be the case four years after that at the Calgary Olympics, Boitano took the gold in Kitchener and Orser the silver. If it was any consolation, it was Orser who landed the triple Axel in his free skate and Boitano who two footed his. Fischer ended the event in third ahead of Filipowski, the Soviet Union's Boris Uspensky and American Bobby Beauchamp. Canada's Kevin Parker was seventh when he started the competition and seventh when he finished.

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