I can't remember the first skating event I saw on television, but I do recall crying and begging for a Karen Magnussen doll. Karen was a Canadian figure skating champion in the early 1970s, winning the world championship in 1973 in the former Czechoslovakia. She had been close to the title the previous years, but had lost out on the top step of the podium, in part, due to compulsory figures, which were not her strongest portion of the competition. Much grumbling in the years prior to 1973 caused a change in individual competitions with the addition of the short program, giving the skaters the chance to show their overall skating skills in two programs and lessening the value of the compulsories. It wasn't until 1990 that compulsory figures were eliminated completely.
I wish my memory was better so that I could say 'I remember when'. Though, I know I must have watched skating as a tot - I wanted that doll remember, and I also wanted to join the local skating club - my truest first memory is Torvill and Dean's "Bolero" skated to perfection at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. A short time later, I saw Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skate in person with their show. Mesmerizing. Spellbinding. It was an honour to see them perform live.
Scott Hamilton, of the US, won the gold at Sarajevo, and Brian Orser, from Canada, won the silver. A feat that he would attain four years later in Calgary at the '88 Olympics. There is no forgetting the skating from the Saddledome that year. Brian v. Brian Boitano of the States - "Battle of the Brians". Both stellar in their execution and style, Boitano squeaking out the win for the gold. Canada won a bronze in ice dance with Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall dancing their way across the ice. And the sweetheart of the women's competition was Elizabeth Manley, a tiny dynamo that had suffered through bouts of nerves in the years leading up to the Calgary Olympics. On a special night, Elizabeth skated her heart out and won the long program, putting her in second place in the competition, awarding her the silver medal. To me, Elizabeth was the darling of those Olympics.
I could go on and on about skating, because my memories are pretty strong since 1988. Kurt Browning. Gordeeva and Grinkov. Brasseur and Eisler. Josee Chouinard. Michelle Kwan. Elvis Stojko. Bourne and Kraatz. Sale and Pelletier. Anissina and Peizerat. Hough and Ladret. The Duchesnays. Sasha Cohen. Irina Slutskaya. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze. Virtue and Moir. Jeff Buttle. Joannie Rochette. Cynthia Phaneuf. Gary Beacom. Kristi Yamaguchi. Steven Cousins. Robin Cousins. Alexei Yagudin. Yuka Sato. Lu Chen. Midori Ito. Wing and Lowe. Dubreuil and Lauzon. Shen and Zhao. Underhill and Martini. Just a few of the skaters that have enthralled me over the past twenty plus years.
After the pre-US Nationals whack on Nancy Kerrigan's knee in 1994, the sport's popularity soared and the arenas and tv screens were full of this delightful sport. Its popularity started to wane, as does happen after a huge high, but with the judging controversy in the pairs' competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, the fan base declined drastically. This is a shame, because the skaters still practice and practice in the hopes of attaining the top step of the podium, and, in the process continue to delight many fans.
Some of my favourite performances over the years:
Torvill & Dean's Bolero - 1984 Sarajevo Olympics
Kurt Browning's Antares - 1998 Canadian Stars on Ice
Kurt's Nyah - 2001 Canadian Stars on Ice
Michelle Kwan's Fields of Gold - Exhibition program 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics
Sale & Pelletier's Imagine - 2002 Golden Homecoming show
Sale & Pelletier's La Vie en Rose - 2000 non-competitive competition
Anissina and Peizerat's Camina Burana - 1999 Trophee Lalique
Bourne & Kraatz' Riverdance - 1998 Nagano Olympics
I really love watching figure skating. :P