View Poll Results: Who was the greatest Ladies singles skater of the 1980's?

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  • Katarina Witt

    32 59.26%
  • Anett Potzsch

    0 0%
  • Linda Fratianne

    0 0%
  • Denise Biellmann

    0 0%
  • Elaine Zayak

    0 0%
  • Kira Ivanova

    0 0%
  • Rosalynn Sumners

    0 0%
  • Midori Ito

    19 35.19%
  • Elizabeth Manley

    1 1.85%
  • Debi Thomas

    2 3.70%
  • Jill Trenary

    0 0%
  • Other

    0 0%
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  1. #1

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    Profile: Katarina Witt

    This profile takes a look back at Katarina Witt's competitive career (1978-1988, with a brief comeback during the 1993/94 season)

    Witt was born on the 3rd December 1965 in Staaken, which was at that time in East Germany. Her commute to school took her past the Kuchwald ice arena, where she became entranced with figure skating. She then persuaded her parents to allow her take up the sport. She said: "I made my way out to the middle of the ice and I remember thinking, 'This is for me'" (Katarina Witt by Evelyn B. Kelly). Spotting her talent and promise, Witt was then recruited by the Kinder- und Jugendsportschule, a special school for children with sporting ability, and she represented the club, SC Karl-Marx-Stadt. Jutta Müller then started coaching her in 1977, and would remain her coach throughout her career.

    Whilst free skating was Witt's strength, compulsories were a definite weakness. She said that she "found the compulsories, which were somewhat slower, really boring. Accordingly, for many years, my performance in the compulsories was somewhat average, and the short freestyle and the freestyle became my biggest strengths...... Throughout my entire amateur career, the short program was my greatest strength. Seven elements had to be demonstrated and one single mistake would mercilessly take points away from my score. Yet this enormous pressure helped me to push harder for a maximum performance. The short program is also always a creative challenge for my trainer, Mrs. Müller, and sometimes a provocative one, as well.”

    1978/79

    One of Witt's earliest competitions was the Blue Swords Trophy in 1978:-

    Blue Swords Trophy 1978 - Gala (The Die Schlümpfe (Smurfs))

    Katarina finished 3rd at the East German Championships (Anett Potzsch and Carola Weißenberg were 1st and 2nd respectively), and 14th at the European Championships

    1979/80

    Witt finished 2nd in the East German Championships behind Anett Pötzsch (but this time, ahead of Carola Weißenberg), and 13th in the European Championships. She then participated in her first World Championships, finishing 10th:-

    1980 World Championships - FS

    1980/81

    Katarina began the season by competing in the NHK Trophy in which she finished 2nd behind Denise Biellmann:-

    1980 NHK Trophy - FS

    Witt then won the East German Championships, and finished 5th at the European Championships. She then finished 5th again at the World Championships:-

    1981 World Championships - SP, 1981 World Championships - FS

    1981/82

    Witt began the season by competing in the Ennia Challenge Cup:-

    1981 Ennia Challenge Cup - FS

    Katarina retained her East German title, and then won the Silver medal at the European Championships (Claudia Kristofics-Binder won the Gold medal):-

    European Championships - Exhibition

    Witt finished 2nd at the World Championships behind Elaine Zayak, beating Claudia Kristofics-Binder into third place. Witt would have won the title in terms of her short program and free skate placements, but a 9th placed finish in the compulsories cost her the title:-

    1982 World Championships - SP, 1982 World Championships - FS

    1982/83 Short Program: Rondò Veneziano Medley, Long Program: Rhapsody in Black

    Katarina began the season by winning the NHK Trophy, beating Rosalynn Sumners and Tiffany Chin in to 2nd and 3rd place respectively. She then retained her East German title and won the European Championships for the first time:-

    1983 European Championships - SP, 1983 European Championships - FS, 1983 European Championships - Gala

    Following on from her European Championships victory, however, Witt finished a disappointing 4th at the World Championships. Rosalynn Sumners, whom she had beaten earlier in the season at the NHK Trophy, won the World title. Katarina actually won in terms of the combined short program and free skate elements, but an 8th placed finish in the compulsories lost her both a medal and the overall title:-

    1983 World Championships - SP, 1983 World Championships - FS

    1983/84 Short Program: Czardas (Monti), Long Program: Broadway Show Tunes Medley

    Witt began the season by winning the Ennia Challenge Cup (defeating Midori Ito on the first of 3 occasions in which she competed against her in a competition in which there were no compulsory figures, just a short and long program - the other 2 being the NHK Trophy 1986 and the NHK Trophy 1987) and Skate Canada:-

    1983 Skate Canada - SP, 1983 Skate Canada - FS

    Katarina next retained both her East German and European titles:-

    1984 European Championships - FS

    Witt followed this up by winning the Olympic title, beating then World Champion, Rosalynn Sumners, into 2nd place. Sumners had entered the Olympic competition as the favourite. However, in the Free Skate, Sumners scaled back 2 of her jumps and Witt won the Gold medal by just one tenth of a point on one judge's scorecard. Katarina later said of her Olympic win: "My greatest opponent at the Olympic Games in Sarajevo in 1984 is the American Figure Skater, Rosalynn Summers. The previous year, she had become the World Champion, I was only in fourth place, behind the two Russian skaters, Kira Iwanowa and Anna Kondraschowa. I laid my foundation with third place in the compulsories and went on to perform flawlessly in the short program, putting me in the lead before the freestyle. It was then a battle between me and Rosalynn during the freestyle, and we decided, for reasons of uncertainty, to omit the relatively risky triple flip. Instead, I would do a double flip in combination with a double axel, and since Rosalynn's jumping capabilities were limited to "two different triples", Mrs. Müller and I were feeling confident. My difficult starting combination, a double Lutz-triple toe-loop went perfectly, but later, my heart stopped, as the triple Salchow only turned out to be a double. That meant that I would have to really concentrate, because I can't afford any more mistakes. The rest of the program was finished without any flaws. I am overjoyed after my performance, that everything went so well, but Rosalynn had not yet gone out on the ice. She can't stand the pressure, and makes several small mistakes. Following her performance, I am pretty certain that I have won. I wait for the score, and almost fall out of my skates, when I read that the Italian judge has given Rosalynn a 6.0 in the B category, and I think, well, I will get the silver. I walk slowly and a little disappointed down the stairs to the dressing room, when some people rush up to congratulate me with hugs. The first is Christopher Dean, who happily informs me, that I have won.":-

    1984 Olympics - SP, 1984 Olympics - FS, 1984 Olympics - Exhibition

    Katarina next added her first World title to her Olympic crown:-

    1984 World Championships - FS

    1984/85 Short Program: Flamenco Fantasy, Long Program: Broadway Show Tunes Medley

    Despite being Olympic champion, Katarina decided to continue competitive skating for another quad and to go for another Olympic title. This was the first time a Ladies Olympic champion had done this in almost 50 years, since the days of Sonja Henie. The biggest factor behind her decision was almost certainly the fact that coming from an Eastern Bloc country, there were no opportunities for her in professional skating.

    Witt retained both her East German and European titles:-

    1985 European Championships - LP

    Katarina then retained her World title:-

    1985 World Championships - Compulsories, 1985 World Championships - SP, 1985 World Championships - FS, 1985 World Championships - Exhibition, 1985 World Championships - Medal Ceremony

    1985/86 Short Program: Caravan, Long Program: West Side Story

    During this season, Witt had problems with achillobursitis on her right heel, which proved to be very painful. Nevertheless, she retained both her East German and European titles:-

    1986 European Championships - SP, 1986 European Championships - FS

    However, next, Katarina was unable to retain her World title, beaten into 2nd place by Debi Thomas. Although Witt won the free skate, a 4th placed finish in the short program left her with too much ground to make up and cost her the title. Witt later said of her performance: "In the short program I botched up my jump combination, just as I had at the European Championships the previous month. I don't believe it - the thing I do best is starting to give me trouble. I hope I don't start developing a phobia because of it. I left the ice rink with a crying face, fall to fourth place, and know immediately that gold is out the window for me.":-

    1986 World Championships - Compulsories, 1986 World Championships - SP, 1986 World Championships - FS, 1986 World Championships - Exhibition, 1986 World Championships - Medal Ceremony

    1986/87 Short Program: In The Mood (Glenn Miller), Long Program: West Side Story

    Katarina began the season by winning the NHK Trophy, beating Midori Ito into 2nd place:-

    1986 NHK Trophy - Short Program, 1986 NHK Trophy - Free Skate

    Witt again retained both her East German and European titles, winning the European title for a 5th consecutive time (beating Kira Ivanova into 2nd place for the third consecutive time):-

    1987 European Championships - FS

    Katarina then regained the World title, avenging her defeat by Debi Thomas a year earlier by beating Thomas into 2nd Place. However, a poor 5th placed finish in the compulsories by Katarina, had meant that Thomas only needed to finish 2nd in the short and long programs to retain her World title. However, a disastrous 7th place finish in the short program by Thomas, meant that a win in the free skate would give Witt the title. Katarina then produced the best long program performance of her life, landing 5 triples, to win both the free skate and the World title. She later said of her Free Skate: "I...try to relax and bolster myself up. The first triple combination went without batting an eye, the triple Salchow was also good to me, the double axel remembered, too, that it was part of the program, and now came the clincher. I know, that without a triple Rittberger, I won't even be going home with a flower pot. The choreography allows me to get a glimpse of Mrs. Müller, who subtly gives me an encouraging nod, and I can do nothing at this point but take the risk. I dash into the run-up, make my approach, jump, and carry it through. Yippee! The subsequent triple Salchow combination also knows where it belongs, and on the landing of the fifth and last triple, I can hardly keep my mouth closed for joy. During the steps that followed, I spontaneously start singing the text, "I want to be in America". At the end, I was almost in a trance, and feel like I am flying through the program and the spectators are carrying me to the last double axel. Everything turns out right. It was to be the most technically difficult and most worthwhile freestyle performance in my entire career.":-

    1987 World Championships - SP, 1987 World Championships - FS, 1987 World Championships - Exhibition, 1987 World Championships - Medal Ceremony

    1987/88 Short Program: Jerry's Girls, Long Program: Carmen

    Both Witt and Thomas chose Carmen as their free program for the 1987/88 season. Hence, their fight for the 1988 Olympic title became known as the 'Battle of the Carmens'.

    As with the previous season, Witt started her season by competing in the NHK Trophy. Again, she won the event, beating Midori Ito into 2nd place. However, on this occasion, her victory was far more controversial. Witt's Carmen free program was designed to bring out Katarina's artistry. Technically, Ito's free program was stronger, however, than Katarina's, and on that basis, some believe that Ito should have won. Who should have won? That depends on whether you prefer Katarina's superior artistry or the greater technical ability of Ito:-

    1987 NHK Trophy - SP, 1987 NHK Trophy - FS

    Again, Katarina retained her East German and European titles. It was her 6th consecutive European title, which matched a record that had been set by Sonja Henie (in terms of overall European titles, that is now held by Irina Slutskaya with 7, although Witt and Henie retain the record of most consecutive with 6):-

    1988 European Championships - FS, Medal Ceremony

    Next, Katarina became the first female singles skater since Sonja Henie to both retain her Olympic title and win an Olympic title more than once. In her Carmen FS, Witt downgraded her planned triple loop to a double, and therefore only landed 4 triples. However, Thomas landed just 2 triples. Accordingly, Witt won the title, although Liz Manley won the Free Skate. Katarina later said of her win: "I skate my freestyle very early in our group. Before Elizabeth and Debi. Actually, it means more to me to skate after everyone else, when the pressure is the highest. This time I have to show them how it's done. Mrs. Müller, at the side of the rink, put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye, and gave me a mental shove just before I was called out. The bells at the beginning of my music transform me into Carmen immediately. Energetically, I jump my first combination triple toe-loop / double toe-loop, on to the triple Salchow, then the double axel and another triple toe-loop. And almost without breathing. I make up for that. I spend the hard-won 30 seconds flirting with the judges, and not only with the 7 men among them, and "posing" choreographically for the audience. That's unimaginable today! Too bad, really! Peggy Fleming and Dick Button, commentating for ABC, utilize this little "break". Peggy wants to give me a woman-to-woman compliment, and said, "This is the moment in which Katarina attempts to draw in the audience's attention. And her theatrical..." But she doesn't get any further, as Dick finished her sentence in a somewhat brash manner, "there's nothing theatrical about that, it's just posing." If only they knew, that during the "flirting break", my heart almost fell into my costume, because suddenly, I had no more strength in my legs. During the habanera, "Love is a wild bird, which no one can tame, and it is useless to call him, if he doesn't want to come" I feel weak and tired and would prefer to stop. Hello! In front of a million spectators, I can hardly fall asleep on the ice! I realize in the run-up to the triple Rittberger, that I don't have the necessary chutzpah for that, and do a double instead. The following triple Salchow combination went so flawlessly well, I would have loved to have audibly screamed for joy. But for now I am Carmen, and can't very well let out a squeal of delight, while the jealous José is on the verge of giving me a razor sharp death blow. The last double axel is also a success, and I feel that I have given my all for Carmen. Four triple jumps securely demonstrated, every facet played out emotionally and choreographically, and yet I know--"lifeless" at the end, and draped across the ice-"Oh man, nothing has been won yet, and everything is still wide open for Debi". With a heavy heart, relieved for the most part, but still a bit anxious, I get up, and four seconds later, I'm Katarina again....I watch Debi unprovokingly from the athlete's official corner at rink-side. Whenever she is called out, she slaps both hands with her trainer. This time she misses, and I know right away, it's not going to go well for her. She isn't aggressive enough. The first combination goes badly, and she loses her fighting spirit. Afterwards, she has more bad landings. I don't have to wait for the score to know that I have won the "Battle of the Carmens". Back in the dressing room, as I am putting my skates on for the award ceremony, I hear a thundering applause from the stands and my knees start to tremble. Does this mean Elizabeth is in the lead? While two are fighting is she the third with the last laugh? In the media and in our minds, the focus had up to now been on Debi and me, so we never turned to see what was coming up behind us. However, as luck would have it, the audience was extremely excited because on the scoreboard, they could see that Elizabeth had won the silver medal for Canada. For them it was like she had won the gold!":-

    1988 Olympics - Compulsories Part 1, 1988 Olympics - Compulsories Part 2, 1988 Olympics - SP, 1988 Olympics - FS, 1988 Olympics - Exhibition, 1988 Olympics - Exhibition (Encore), 1988 Olympics - Medal Ceremony

    Following on from the Olympics, Katarina retained her World title and then retired:-

    1988 World Championships - Compulsories, 1988 World Championships - SP, 1988 World Championships - FS, 1988 World Championships - Medal Ceremony

    1993/94 Short Program: Robin Hood, Long Program: Where Have All The Flowers Gone

    Katarina made a comeback in 1993/94. not with any realistic hopes of winning the 1994 Olympics, but to sample the Olympic experience one last time. By this time, she was well past her best and the sport had moved on technically.

    She started the season by finishing second in the German Championships to Tanja Szewczenko:-

    1994 German Nationals - FS

    She followed this up by finishing 8th in the European Championships:-

    1994 European Championships - SP, 1994 European Championships - FS

    Katarina's competitive career came to an end with a 7th placed finish at the 1994 Olympics:-

    1994 Olympics - SP, 1994 Olympics - FS
    Last edited by Maofan7; 10-04-2012 at 01:22 AM.

  2. #2
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    My favorite performance of Witt's is her 1994 Free skate to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" as a tribute to Sarajevo. That program and Torvill & Dean's exhibition routine to "Bolero" at the same Olympics give me chills.

    I also enjoyed her 1994 SP to Robin Hood as well.

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    Great Biography of Katrina. What is she up to now?

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    Quote Originally Posted by lulu View Post
    I also enjoyed her 1994 SP to Robin Hood as well.
    I think that was arguably Witt's best SP ever. For the first time, she showed a true understanding of choreography and musical interpretation. Artistically I thought it was the #1 SP that evening.

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    Love the insight -

    1. '84: She thought she had lost the Gold in Sarajevo to Roz when she saw Roz got a 6.0 in the 2d set of marks after her LP, and only found out she won upon being congratulated.

    2. '87: She considered this her best performance. So do I!

    3. '88: Had no idea she went wobbly midway thru the LP, and was so happy just to get that last 3sal done (?)

  6. #6

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    Great article and great research. Thanks for posting.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Octoberopals View Post
    Great Biography of Katrina. What is she up to now?
    She is a Judge on Dancing on Ice in the UK, which returns for an 8th series in the New Year.

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    The Katarina/Debi rivalry came 4th on Time Magazine's Top 10 list of Figure Skating rivalries

    http://www.time.com/time/specials/pa...968197,00.html

    http://www.time.com/time/specials/pa...968192,00.html

    The list was

    1 Yu Na Kim and Mao Asada
    2 Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
    3 Brian Boitano and Brian Orser
    4 Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas
    5 Alexei Yagudin and Evegni Plushenko
    6 Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski
    7 Scott Hamilton and Scott Cramer
    8 Jamie Sale and David Pelletier vs. Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze
    9 Linda Fratianne and Anett Poetzsch
    10 Todd Eldredge and Timothy Goebel

    The list was compiled at the time of the last Olympics. I dont think Kim and Mao would top the list now. It would probably be Tonya & Nancy, the Brians, and then Kati & Debi.

  9. #9

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    Just added a poll. Who was the greatest Ladies singles skater of the 1980's? With 2 Olympic titles and 4 World titles, Katarina was certainly the most successful in terms of major titles. However, would Denise Biellmann have won more World titles and the 1984 Olympic title had she not retired after the 1980/81 season? Katarina peaked technically during the 1986/87 season. By the 1987/88 season, she was only just about hanging on technically and would be beaten by Liz Manley in the Free Skate at the 1988 Olympics. By this time, Midori Ito was arguably the best free skater in the World (held back by the compulsories which would be removed altogether a couple of years later), who would become World Champion a year later. Nevertheless, artistry counted for much more under the 6.0 system, and Katarina in my view was the best of her generation in terms of artistry and a pioneer in that respect.
    Last edited by Maofan7; 10-06-2012 at 03:57 AM.

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    Who should have won? That depends on whether you prefer Katarina's superior artistry or the greater technical ability of Ito

    I despised Witt's Carmen in everyway, all the shameless mugging and posing, it was her worst program ever IMO. I would even rather watch her charming Muppets program in the garbage bin costume from 81 than watch that program. Plus her performance to it at NHK sucked, technically she would never be as strong as Ito was there, but it was light years below even her World Championship winning skates the last 3 years. If I were a judge I would have not only scored Ito way higher technically but scored her higher artistically too.

    Best skater of the 80s is hard for me. Witt was the best skater IMO from 84-87 so that is 4 years. She was also one of the best skaters almost the entire decade. Even when she lost Worlds in 86 everyone knew she was still the best, and she only lost because she stumbled in the short. Ito though IMO was the best skater in 88 and 89, and her 89 level was so much better than anything seen the whole decade (and maybe even her 88 level), in fact her skating in the 88-89 and 89-90 seasons might still be the best skating ever by a women. Biellmann in 80 and 81 was amazing and ahead of her time, and IMO much better than anything that was seen up to and including the 84 Olympics atleast. It would be one of those three. I voted for Manley just because it is probably the only vote she will get, and since I couldnt decide who to give my serious vote to. I thought of voting for the horrible Rosalynn Sumners, the poorest skater to ever win a Worlds, just for the lolzzz.
    Last edited by judgejudy27; 10-06-2012 at 06:20 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by judgejudy27 View Post
    Who should have won? That depends on whether you prefer Katarina's superior artistry or the greater technical ability of Ito

    I despised Witt's Carmen in everyway, all the shameless mugging and posing, it was her worst program ever IMO. I would even rather watch her charming Muppets program in the garbage bin costume from 81 than watch that program. Plus her performance to it at NHK sucked, technically she would never be as strong as Ito was there, but it was light years below even her World Championship winning skates the last 3 years. If I were a judge I would have not only scored Ito way higher technically but scored her higher artistically too.

    Best skater of the 80s is hard for me. Witt was the best skater IMO from 84-87 so that is 4 years. She was also one of the best skaters almost the entire decade. Even when she lost Worlds in 86 everyone knew she was still the best, and she only lost because she stumbled in the short. Ito though IMO was the best skater in 88 and 89, and her 89 level was so much better than anything seen the whole decade (and maybe even her 88 level), in fact her skating in the 88-89 and 89-90 seasons might still be the best skating ever by a women. Biellmann in 80 and 81 was amazing and ahead of her time, and IMO much better than anything that was seen up to and including the 84 Olympics atleast. It would be one of those three. I voted for Manley just because it is probably the only vote she will get, and since I couldnt decide who to give my serious vote to. I thought of voting for the horrible Rosalynn Sumners, the poorest skater to ever win a Worlds, just for the lolzzz.
    If you're talking about poorest skaters in the 80s(?) I would actually rank Anett Poetzsch above Roz

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    True, Sumners was boring as hell but atleast she was a much more polished and artistic skater than Poetzsch, and their jumps were equally inconsistent. Poetzsch was sort of a compulsory figures master though, then again Sumners by 83/84 too was too as she dominated the figures portion of major events, and it sure as heck wasnt due to politics based on her mega low figures placings in 81 and 82 before she apparently improved them. Neither was a Schuba of Fleming with historic figures.

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    Quote Originally Posted by olympic View Post
    If you're talking about poorest skaters in the 80s(?) I would actually rank Anett Poetzsch above Roz
    When she won the 1980 Olympics, Pötzsch finished 3rd in the FS and 4th in the SP. But for her 1st place in the compulsories, she would not have won the title. She was also a 2 time World champion - in 1978 and 1980. However, in the 1978 World Championships, she finished 2nd in the SP and 3rd in the FS, and it was only her 1st place finish in the compulsories that won her the title. Furthermore, at the 1980 World Championships, she finished 6th in the SP and 2nd in the FS, and again it was only her 1st place finish in the compulsories that won her the title. Hence, all in all, without the compulsories, Pötzsch would never have become a World and Olympic champion.

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    I thought Roz of 83 was a wonderful skater. It was too bad that she had a brain fart in 84.

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    Roz reminded me of an all-American version of Laura Lepisto: Really great skating skills, nice speed, cool non-flamboyant personality, but more than capable of botching a jump or two.

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    Quote Originally Posted by olympic View Post
    Roz reminded me of an all-American version of Laura Lepisto: Really great skating skills, nice speed, cool non-flamboyant personality, but more than capable of botching a jump or two.

    Laura Lepisto is so much more sophisticated, elegant and beautiful to watch, ... IMO.

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrWR0TxrJ5M&feature=plcp

    With much talk about how if Denise Beillmann hadn't retired so early she would have been the 1984 Olympic Champ... I think this performance also proves she could have been the 1988 champ as well..... look at her 3Lutz!!! It's better than when she was amateur!

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    Interesting:
    I watch Debi unprovokingly from the athlete's official corner at rink-side. Whenever she is called out, she slaps both hands with her trainer. This time she misses, and I know right away, it's not going to go well for her.

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    Roz was considered super-sophisticated in her time. That's why Uncle Dickie used to call her 'The Grace Kelly of the Ice.' Roz personified 'Little Miss Elegance' with her white gloves during practices, perfectly coiffed hair, girly-girly dresses, etc. Poor Elaine Zayak was characterized as the unsophisticated kid with the little voice and big jump (which I thought was unfair) who sometimes wore 'unladylike' unitards to practices. (!!!) I'm surprised that the Roz vs Elaine rivalry is not on the list of rivalries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frau Muller View Post
    Roz was considered super-sophisticated in her time. That's why Uncle Dickie used to call her 'The Grace Kelly of the Ice.' Roz personified 'Little Miss Elegance' with her white gloves during practices, perfectly coiffed hair, girly-girly dresses, etc. Poor Elaine Zayak was characterized as the unsophisticated kid with the little voice and big jump (which I thought was unfair) who sometimes wore 'unladylike' unitards to practices. (!!!) I'm surprised that the Roz vs Elaine rivalry is not on the list of rivalries.
    After reading old articles, I also got the impression that Elaine was unfairly pegged as the "unsophisticated" one. She apparently wasn't "lady-like" enough for TPTB and was sort of a predecessor for Tonya Harding. Looking back at old videos, I much prefer Elaine over Roz both on and off the ice. Elaine has such a fun and bubbly personality.

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