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:-
- The technical content of Midori's programs was well ahead of its time, and superior to that of Katarina's
- 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?