Figure Skating | 1994 Olympics - Ladies Final
Hey there you skating freaknasties, we're back this week in our bedazzled costumes getting ready to talk about the Ladies' Final of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. It was the most dramatic event in Ladies' Figure skating history combined with one of the deepest talent pools ever. Any one of the top 10 ladies could have won gold.
Those ladies are:
Nancy Kerrigan, USA
Tonya Harding, USA
Oksana Baiul, UKR
Surya Bonaly, FRA
Tanja Swerczenko, GER
Katarina Witt, GER
Josee Chouinard, CAN
Yuka Sato, JPN
Chen Lu/Lu Chen CHN
'Member them? The great thing about this field, is that there are no clear standouts. Save Witt, they are all doing the same 5 triple jumps, spins, and combos. Witt is the only one in the field with a true artistic advantage, the rest are more athletic and balanced across the board. It really comes down to who is going to have the better day. Just on its own without the drama, this field is riveting because it really is anyone's skate for gold.
But, of course, we had three theaters of drama happening in this event. One being the USA bringing the trailer park to Norway, with the whole Tonya/Nancy saga. It's funny to watch this as a 38 year old woman 15 years removed from skating, versus the 14 year old girl I was climbing the ranks in my own skating career. I was a huge Tonya apologist back then and didn't like Nancy. Boy how that has changed after watching this.
We also had the saga of Oksana Baiul, a broken fawn of a girl from the Ukraine, Viktor Petrenko scraped off his windshield and presented to his mother-in-law to make into an Olympic champion. She's the reigning world champion going into this, and everyone is in love with the ingenue orphan turned champion story. The entire world wants Oksana to win just because we watch entirely too many Disney movies.
The third ring of drama in this circus is the return of the pros in this abbreviated 2year quad, which I guess doesn't make it a quad, but a duet. ISU needed a hook to hype up this weird timeline which would typically produce garbage as mid-quads always do, and let the pros come back to competition. This brings Katarina Witt back into the mix, who at the horrifically elderly age of 28, is competing in her 3rd Olympics, one without school figures, and she actually has a shot. She's our underdog and we like to see old people succeed.
Everyone else is a bit of a jumble. Swerczenko is 'Not Katarina', Sato a bit young and untested, we still don't quite know if we like Surya Bonaly or not, Josee Chouinard is a fritz who is either dazzling or a dumpster fire, and Chen Lu/Lu Chen is automatic, only the judges can't seem to get their shit together when it comes to knowing how to score her.
Who have I left out? Tonya Harding.
We begin this recap with Mrs. Gillooly in 10th after the short program. She has been announced and is about to blow her 2:00 warning to get her ass on the ice, and we cut to dramatic footage of her people trying to fix a broken skate lace.
14 year old me thought Tonya was a rebel. She chain smoked Marlboros behind the rink and went to bars. To sheltered figure skating kids who barely get released from the dungeon long enough to attend normal school, she was my James Dean. But it turns out, through my worldly adult eyes, she's a heaving trash goblin who embarrasses her sport. What a tool.
So she finally takes the ice after getting her skate tied, skating to Jurassic Park, because why not give us the visual of her biting the heads off live people and running off to join a pack of velociraptors? Life imitating art, and all that.
After popping her triple lutz, she heave whines to the judges and they give her an equipment delay and drop her to the bottom of the group. Which is fine! Those are the rules. What they should have done after that is bring the group out for another two minute leg stretch/warm up before they started the competition again while Tonya fixes her skate. But what do I even know?
What's hilarious about this for me is that the Norwegians are PISSED OFF in the stands. They're whistling and booing because this is the goddamned Olympics and you get the hell out there whether you've severed off an arm or not. You don't wimper about your skate lace because you wear jank equipment. Like, inspect yo shit the night before. Laces on Harlick boots don't just snap. I did find it funny that they were trying to relace them with her feet in them... giant Harlick boots with 9,000 blister pads. Like, have any of you been around skates before?
So after Josee Chouinard shows us what a Canadian disaster looks like, and Yuka Sato capitalizes on it, we get to see ol' Tanya puff on her inhaler after probably chain smoking 20 cigarettes, and head back out to do her long program. She's booed, and Scott Hamilton can barely contain his disgust for her, especially when her out of shape ass gets tired at the end of her program and he's all, "This damn cow." I'm with him. She was bratty, trashy, mouthy, and entitled when any other skater would've just dealt with it. I skated an entire event with an untied lace... I'm still here to tell the tale.
Her long program wasn't terrible and that also puts me in a fit of rage. She was SO good. Seriously, she just had to take direction, shut up, and skate, and she would've had another shot at the Olympics. Instead she wanted to be lazy and a stunt Queen. Look where that got her. I now sit here and say that she got everything she deserved.
Let's cleanse our palate of these stale cigarettes, regrets, and broken dreams.
The Final Group
Chen Lu - CHN
Lu Chen/Chen Lu, depending on what network you're watching, is one of the most underrated skaters of all time. She's automatic, and so perfectly well rounded. Her music, "Clarinet torture in D Minor" was horrific, and made my ears bleed, but her quality of skating would have challenged for silver had Nancy not been holding first and had a triple triple combo.
Oh, Nancy. You was robbed, girl. Before I get into the whys and hows, let me apologize for being a brutal hater of hers for the last 23 years. Watching her now, she's just real and I love it so much. When Tracy Wilson in all of her shade throwing was like, "Dat triple flip you bombed, doe." Nancy was all, "Bombed? It was still a good double flip." Word, girl. Word.
Ok, so the choreography and music were abysmal. She deserved better than flappy arms and Neil Diamond. Not that Mr. Diamond isn't a national treasure, but when you're trying to beat Ukrainian orphans who literally skated their short program dressed like a wounded bird, you have to do better than that.
That aside, she should have run away on technical merit alone. So she doubled a triple flip. Oksana doubled a toe loop; a much easier jump. Nancy had better spins and edge quality, and...and...AND a TRIPLE TRIPLE COMBO. Like, good night, thank you, I'll take my gold medal now. On that alone, she was screwed. I'll continue this rant in Oksana's routine.
Ok, I liked 1994 Oksana. She was lovable, adorable, and you too wanted to scrape her off her windshield and hand her over to your mother in law to make her dreams come true. I am judging this Oksana separate from the wildebeast she would become just 2 years after winning this thing. That Oksana is a monster that should tour with Tonya she's so bad. Ugh.
But this is 1994 innocent Oksana before America and money ruined her, and we will judge her as such.
At an earlier practice, Oksana collided with Tanja Swerczenko and had a cut on her leg that needed a few stitches and injured her lower back. She was treated with olympic approved injectables (lidocaine, probs) and she didn't go crying to the referee about it, Tonya.
Now I will continue my rant.
Bronze medal. She should have won the fucking bronze medal. The only thing she landed cleanly without a two foot or a wonky baby deer legs landing was a triple lutz. That's it. I have no idea how she even landed that triple loop without swearing a blood oath to Hades. Sure she's adorable, makes all the hammy winky faces to the judges, and has tremendous musicality, but her jumps and spins were not in the top 5. Nope.
The fact it came down to a tenth of a point is appalling to me. I'll never be ok with it. Ever.
Katarina Witt - GER
Sit down children, we're about to watch some actual skating. Grandma Witt is gonna show us things like edge quality and footwork. Pay attention.
Even though her triple salchow went, "mmm... not today, girl." I have to give mad props to Katarina for showing up and competing. Actually competing. She didn't have to come back. Skating was totally different from when she left it. No school figures and women were doing five separate triple jumps. When Katarina won the Olympics, you were a damn unicorn if you showed up with a triple salchow. Not only did she show up with that, homegirl went and got herself a triple loop she landed... osteoporosis, walker, and all.
Had she not biffed the salchows, she might've eeked a nostalgia bronze on the artistic score. But that wasn't gonna happen this time. She is still our revered goddess of the ice, and we'll always have Carmen '88.
Surya Bonaly -FRA
Surya 'no shits given' Bonaly is my entire world. Where Tonya was trying to be a rebel and a 'bad-girl' Surya was doing it. I just remember my mom being scandalized when it came out that she didn't wear tights when she skated. QUELLE HORROR!!!! The harlot! We should sew a scarlet letter on that dress!
She opened her long program with a mazurka into a double axel and every skater on the planet was like, "Damn, girl. Damn." She's all, "Just gonna hop into a double axel from a standstill and call it a Wednesday, no big whoop." Amazing.
I wish they could've smoothed her out and stopped the telegraphing before each jump she did, but the jumps were always incredible, and she was a technically sound spinner. However, the second half of the routine was plagued with mistakes, and there would be no medal this time around for her to protest.
Tanja Swerczenko - GER
Well, we end the evening with 'Not Katarina Witt' of Germany, and it was fine, I guess. She had a couple of bobbles, and she was a bit too new and forgettable to make a dent in this Olympics. Also, reverse skaters (those damn lefties) freak judges out. A lutz off the right foot that spins clockwise? WHAT IS THIS SORCERY???? She'll have her day in a year when they seal Katarina's crypt again, but she was a nice and benign end to the evening.
1. Oksana Baiul - UKR
2. Nancy Kerrigan - USA
3. Chen Lu - CHN
4. Surya Bonaly - FRA
5. Yuka Sato - JPN
Everyone else cried.
How it should have gone...
1. Nancy Kerrigan
2. Chen Lu
3. Oksana Baiul
4. Surya Bonaly (Sorry, Girl)
The Medal Ceremony
Nancy Kerrigan is so savage I might be in love with her now. The ceremony was held up for 10 minutes while they were told Oksana was redoing her makeup, and Nancy's all, "Why? She's just going to cry it off again!" Yes. So much yes. Eff that orphan and let's go drink this night away, girl.
The other beautiful thing was Viktor Petrenko translating for Oksana. So cute.
Well, that's it for this blast from the past I'm still angry about and will probably be in my closet snapping popsicle sticks about it for the next 23 years. Next week, we stay in 1994 for more highway robbery in the Dance Competition where another Oksana ruins everything.