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  1. #1

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    Katarina Witt & Midori Ito: A Rivalry That Went Mostly Under The Radar

    When you think of who Katarina Witt's main rivals were, you usually think of Rosalynn Sumners, Debi Thomas, Liz Manley, and a few others. However, one skater who is mentioned less often, is Midori Ito. This is because, in major competitions, such as Worlds and Olympics, Ito was left so far behind after the school figures, that she did not pose a serious risk in terms of beating Katarina (a secondary factor was that Midori twice broke her ankle, in 1983 and 1985, and this prevented her from competing for long periods). However, that was not always the case in other competitions. In a few competitions during the 1980's, held before the scrapping of the school figures, there were no compulsory figures, and these competitions were therefore determined on just the short and long programs. It was on these rare occasions, during the 1983-88 period, that Midori did present a real threat to Katarina. The three most notable examples of such competitions, which really brought out the Katarina/Midori rivalry, were:-

    • The Ennia Challenge Cup 1983
    • The 1986 NHK Trophy
    • The 1987 NHK Trophy


    All 3 competitions had the following features:-

    1. The technical content of Midori's programs was well ahead of its time, and superior to that of Katarina's
    2. In the view of the Judges, the artistry/presentation of Katarina's programs was sufficient to put Katarina ahead of Midori overall. Hence, Katarina won all 3 competitions. However, the results were at the time, and remain so to this day, controversial.


    The Ennia Challenge Cup 1983 marked Midori's senior international debut. The technical content of her LP was to say the least, astonishing for its time - 6 triples (3Z, 3T, 3T, 3F, 3S, 3R). The end result was very close, but Katarina just edged it. Unfortunately, there are no videos online relating to this event.

    The 1986 NHK Trophy was also a close result. This is Midori Ito's SP. No other videos available.

    The closest of the 3 competitions, however, was the 1987 NHK Trophy. Midori was 1st after the SP, with katarina 3rd behind Tonya Harding in 2nd. Midori then put in an amazing performance in the FS, with technical content way superior to that of Katarina's Carmen (which, in my view, was one of katarina's weakest programs from a technical perspective. However, as artistry back then was better rewarded than it is today under COP, the program was clearly designed to clean up on the artistic impression marks. Katarina and Jutta Müller, I think, took a gamble with this program in terms of calculating that any deficit on the technical merit marks, could be made up with the artistic impression scores). Katarina won the free skate (with Midori in 2nd), and the competition. The factored placements were 2.2 to Katarina, and 2.4 to Midori.

    Here are the videos for the 1987 NHK Trophy:-

    Katarina Witt - Short Program

    Katarina Witt - Free Skate

    Midori Ito - Short Program

    Midori Ito - Free Skate

    Hence, in competitions with no compulsories, Midori well and truly showed that she was a serious threat to Katarina during a period in which Katarina won 2 Olympic titles and 4 world titles. Controversial results in all 3 of the aforementioned competitions. What do you think?
    Last edited by Maofan7; 03-09-2012 at 03:29 AM.

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    When you think of who Katarina Witt's main rivals were, you usually think of Rosalynn Sumners, Debi Thomas, Liz Manley, and a few others. However, one skater who is mentioned less often, is Midori Ito.
    That's probably because they were not really rivals. Ito was just a young, upcoming skater, never a threat to take a World or Olympic title away from Witt. Between her poor showings in figures and lesser presentation marks, she wasn't a threat to Witt, and that's what it takes to make a rivalry.

    Ito's wonderful skates at Calgary really announced her presence as a contender for the next quadrennium (when Witt would be safely retired from ISU competition and busy making money).

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    At the very least, Midori was no rival to Katarina because of the "wait your turn" institution of figure skating.

    In real time, I was under the impression that Midori, Trenary, and the other up and comers would have take over, and that stage was set by Midori winning in 1989.

    Of course, the landscape was flattened by the death of figures. Yamaguchi would have probably stayed in pairs with Galindo became her figures were not good enough to keep her out of a insurmountable hole on the World stage in singles while she was setting technically difficulty records in pairs with SBS 3F.
    Last edited by bardtoob; 03-09-2012 at 02:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    At the very least, Midori was no rival to Katarina because of the "wait your turn" institution of figure skating.

    In real time, I was under the impression that Midori, Trenary, and the other up and comers would have take over, and that stage was set by Midori winning in 1989.

    Of course, the landscape was flattened by the death of figures. Yamaguchi would have probably stayed in pairs with Galindo became her figures were not good enough to keep her out of a insurmountable hole on the World stage in singles while she was setting technically difficulty records in pairs with SBS 3F.
    How good would Yamaguchi-Galindo have been as a pair. At the 1990 Worlds they didnt look close at all to the top 4 pairs, yet the very next year in a weaker field Kuchiki-Sand won the bronze and I dont think they would have passed Yamaguchi-Galindo unless they fell off.

    If figures were there to stay wouldnt Kristi have worked her butt off to improve them though. I always got the impression she knew they would be gone after the 1990 Worlds so didnt bother with them much. Plus at the 1990 Worlds she seemed to be much stronger a medal contender in ladies than in pairs, even with her horrible figures. She was in mathematical contention for the gold going into the LP if Midori didnt have her best skate, and she probably would have won the bronze and denied Jill the gold to Ito had she not had an unusually bad long program.

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    Yamaguchi did not spend a whole lot of time on figures because she was also training pairs.

    US pairs have rarely ever competed for more than 3rd on the World stage, and, at that time, behind two Soviet teams.

    However, my real point was about the "WAIT YOUR TURN" institution. The figures-no figures issue just coincided with Ito's rise.
    Last edited by bardtoob; 03-09-2012 at 03:21 AM.

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    Although she never beat Witt, Ito was a major threat. She was such a special skater that she had the potential to make the skating world want to re-evaluate the whole judging system. That of course never happened, but I'm sure many were left wondering what if.

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    Ito was never really a rival to Katarina for two reasons:

    1.Weak in school figures. She was expected to dominate after the elimination of school figures, but she managed to place 3rd in figures in 89, and won the world title. By that time Katarina had retired.

    2.Those days ladies were expected to be 'ladylike', which Katarina was. Not Midori. She could have challenged the men.

    It was great to see Midori get 5.9s mostly across the board after her terrific LP at the 1988 Olympics, but she was never in medal contention.

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    I still don't understand 1987 NHK Trophy. Midori Ito should have won it easily, IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    Ito was never really a rival to Katarina for two reasons:

    1.Weak in school figures. She was expected to dominate after the elimination of school figures, but she managed to place 3rd in figures in 89, and won the world title. By that time Katarina had retired.
    I think she was 6th in the compulsories, then won both the OP (short) and the FP (long). She may have been higher in the first figure, she often succumbed to nerves in the loop figure.

    Rule changes prior to the 1988-89 season made the artistic impression mark the tie-breaker in the free programme. Certain quarters were clearly afraid of Midori...

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    Witt would have just stared her down from the boards during Ito's performances.

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    Quote Originally Posted by briancoogaert View Post
    I still don't understand 1987 NHK Trophy. Midori Ito should have won it easily, IMO.
    I wonder if the skate order helped Witt slightly. In terms of content, she delivered a performance that was "good enough" for an autumn event and Ito's step out of the 3t in combination justified not giving her a 6.0 for technical merit. On the other hand, it's clear that it wouldn't have made a difference with judge #4, who awarded Witt and Ito the same(!) mark for technical merit (5.7)...

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    Witt fell in the short program at that event and should have been 4th in the short behind Nancy Kerrigan who skated a very nice short program. She shouldnt have even been in position to win by winning the long program, which she didnt deserve to win anyway. Not sure if I would have even had her beating Harding at that event. Definitely got a Champions boost.

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    Witt didn't fall in the short at 1987 NHK, but the second half of her planned 3t2r combination was entirely unsuccessful.

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    Talk about a preview into the future of ladies' skating for the next quaddrenium.

    Ito and Harding were really good at this competition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarrellH View Post
    Witt would have just stared her down from the boards during Ito's performances.
    And Ito would have launched a huge jump to land out of the boards and squash her.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LilJen View Post
    And Ito would have launched a huge jump to land out of the boards and squash her.

    Should have been jump competitions for jumping beans like Ito or Bonaly.. without music and choreography..


    See this '' Top jump'',,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhP3o9bh8uc

    How about that?.. I think that kind of competition means ''the death of figure
    skating''..

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    Ito ,,even not the best jumper in history of figure skating..
    She got no real lutz.. and no precise technique..

    She is also known for her leg wrap when she jumps like yukari nakano..



    Tonya Harding was the best jumper..
    At least her jump was exact and precise not like Ito..


    But both of them were not good skaters.. just jumpers..
    They didn't step up the plate on the other level of skating..
    As great Peggy Fleming said,,''Skating isn't just about jumping''

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny158 View Post
    Should have been jump competitions for jumping beans like Ito or Bonaly.. without music and choreography..


    See this '' Top jump'',,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhP3o9bh8uc

    How about that?.. I think that kind of competition means ''the death of figure
    skating''..
    You can't compare Ito with Bonaly. Ito skated and jumped with correct edges, had good basics and flow, and she was never just a jumping bean. She had both musicality and choreography. She did difficult combinations, like a camel spin right after a triple jump, or spread eagles into triple loop. She had excellent footwork, and she was a very good spinner. She is most famous for her awesome jumps, but she was so much more. Bonaly OTOH did not use the edges, and was heavily criticized for her technique. The only other skater who comes close to Ito is Tonya Harding, but she was less consistent; still a great jumper though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny158 View Post
    Ito ,,even not the best jumper in history of figure skating..
    She got no real lutz.. and no precise technique..
    You should watch Midori's lutz. Always off the correct edge. Not many ladies can do that. It's ridiculous to say Midori did not have a precise technique. She would not be able to land those jumps with such consistency without a great technique.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    You should watch Midori's lutz. Always off the correct edge. Not many ladies can do that. It's ridiculous to say Midori did not have a precise technique. She would not be able to land those jumps with such consistency without a great technique.



    Though Kurt Browning was the first person to land a quadruple jump in competition,, never stopped at that level..

    He bravely challenged and stepped up the higher plate..on the all kinds of levels of figure skating..

    All greats begins as excellent jumpers,, (like Yagudin. Browning, kulik etc...)
    but they never stop pursuing the next level of skating..


    Ito, Harding and Bonaly never been there,,
    some of them even never tried to..


    That's why I call them ''great jumpers'' ,,,

    not even good skaters..

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