This retrospective features the 1968 Olympics Ladies competition - probably one of the most iconic Olympic figure skating events in history.
The key facts are:-
- Peggy Fleming wins the United States first Olympic gold medal since the Sabena Flight 548 air disaster which killed the entire US figure skating team (which was on its way to the 1961 World Championships) on the 15th February 1961. Fleming was only 12 years old at the time of the crash and her coach, Bill Kipp, was one of those who was killed. He was on the flight as he was also the coach to Dona Lee Carrier and Roger Campbell, and Rhode Lee Michelson, who were scheduled to compete at 1961 Worlds. As Nikki Nichols recounted in her book, Frozen in Time: "As the 1964 Nationals approached, the field still looked thin....Then, out of the shadows....Peggy Fleming....burst onto the scene, winning her first national championship at age fifteen. The title of national champion would belong to her for five more years." Fleming finished 6th at the 1964 Olympics (skating with a high fever) and then moved from California to Colorado Springs to train with her new coach, Carlo Fassi. He helped her to improve her school figures. She then won bronze at 1965 Worlds and a year later, in 1966, she became the world champion (a title she retained in both 1967 and 1968). In 1994, Sports Illustrated said of her 1968 Olympic gold medal winning performance: "She launched figure skating's modern era, Pretty and balletic, elegant and stylish, Fleming took a staid sport that was shackled by its inscrutable compulsory figures and arcane scoring system and, with television as her ally, made it marvelously glamorous." The same year, the magazine also named her one of its 40 individuals who had had the greatest impact on sport during the previous 40 years. Nikki Nichols concluded in Frozen in Time, that Fleming's victory "signalled that the [United States's] recovery [from the 1961 air disaster] was now complete."
- Gaby Seyfert won the silver medal. She was coached by her mother, Jutta Müller, who would go on to coach 1980 Olympic champion, Anett Pötzsch, and 1984 & 1988 Olympic champion, Katarina Witt. After the 1968 Olympics, Seyfert went on to win the 1969 and 1970 World Championships, after which she retired. Had she not retired in 1970, she would almost certainly have been the favourite to win the 1972 Olympics. The reasons for her retirement are unclear, but were discussed recently in this thread here. The answer may be contained in her autobiography which I recently obtained a copy of. Its in German and no English language version was ever released. Hence, as my German is very poor, it will be some time before I find a possible answer in there!
- Hana Maskova won the Bronze medal. Known for her jumping ability, like Seyfert she had the artistry to go with it. Sadly, she was killed in a car crash just 4 years later on the 31st March 1972 in France and was buried in prague. This article here contains an interesting account of her life. Somewhat chillingly, another great Czech skater, Pavel Roman had also been killed in a car crash just two months earlier on the 30th January 1972.
- Just outside the medals in 4th place was Tina Noyes. Trained by Cecelia Colledge, Noyes had finished 8th at the 1964 Olympics and had finished 2nd four times behind Peggy Fleming at US Nationals. She now coaches at the Hayden Recreation Centre in Lexington. Like Fleming, Noyes skated in an era dominated by the aftermath of the 1961 air disaster. Indeed, in a 2001 interview with the Boston Globe, she recalled that during her early years as a novice and junior skater, due to the need to get US figure skating back on its feet, "There was a lot of publicity given to the junior and novice skaters...There were a lot of high expectations, a tremendous amount of pressure. [Barbara Roles] coming back was really huge....I remember when she came into the Skating Club to practice. Everything just stopped. It was almost like looking at a ghost.''
- Trixie Schuba finished 5th, Karen Magnussen 7th, and Janet Lynn 9th.
Here are the medal winning performances:-
1968 Olympics - Ladies Competition
Gold: Peggy Fleming - USA
Free Skate - 2nd Version
Free Skate - 3rd Version
Silver: Gabriele Seyfert - East Germany
Bronze: Hana Maskova - Czechoslovakia
Free Skate - short clip at beginning of video
If anybody knows of the whereabouts of a complete copy of the program on the net, do post a link to it.
4th: Albertina Noyes - USA
9th: Janet Lynn - USA