Retrospective moves onto the 1972 Olympics.
The key facts in relation to these Olympics are:-
- These Olympics were the nadir for compulsory figures, with both winners of the singles events performing very poorly in their free skates, but winning despite that, due to their strength in the school figures. At this time, compulsories still contributed 50% of the marks. Consequently, Trixi Schuba was able to win, despite finishing 7th in the free skate, and Ondrej Nepela was able to win despite finishing 4th in the free skate. As a direct result of this, and its perceived unfairness towards much more accomplished free skaters like Janet Lynn and Toller Cranston, the weight contributed by compulsories were gradually reduced over the next 20 years (with compulsories being eliminated altogether at the end of the 1989/90 season) and a short program was introduced.
- Ondrej Nepela wins the men's title. He was the reigning world champion and favourite going into the Olympics, and would go on to win the world title on 3 consecutive occasions between 1971-73, before retiring at the end of the 1972/73 season to tour with Holiday on Ice. Sadly, he died of AIDS-related complications in 1989, at the age of just 38. The Ondrej Nepela Memorial tournament was set up and named in his honour, and has been held annually (usually in his home town of Bratislava) since 1993. In fact, were it not for the fact that the 1973 World Championships were to be held in Bratislava, Nepela would have retired a year earlier at the end of the 1971/72 season. Nepela won the compulsories at the 1972 Olympics easily, opening up a huge lead. His 4th placed finish in the free skate, was therefore sufficient for him to win the title.
- Sergei Chetverukhin won the free skate, and took the Silver. His medal was a first medal at an Olympics for a Soviet skater in singles.
- For the second Olympics running, Patrick Péra took the bronze, despite a thoroughly disastrous free skate in which in finished 8th in that section. His 2nd place in the compulsories was sufficient to enable him to win a medal.
- Beatrix Schuba wins the Olympic title in the ladies event. Like Nepela, she led by a enormous margin after the compulsories. So large was the lead, that she would go on to win the title despite a dismal 7th placed finish in the free program. Schuba's 7th place in the free program has the unfortunate distinction of being the lowest placement in the free skate section by an Olympic gold medalist in the entirety of Olympic history. In singles, nobody comes close to matching this feat. Nepela, of course, came 4th when winning his title. And Jeannette Altwegg (1952) and Magda Julin (1920) both came 4th when winning their gold medals. Moreover, it was not as if the best free skater, Janet Lynn (who won the free program and took the bronze medal behind Silver medalist, Karen Magnussen) was poor at the compulsories. Her school figures were quite respectable, and she finished 4th in that section. As for Schuba's free skate, footage of it has not been widely seen in over 40 years (fortunately for her). Nobody can therefore say for certain whether it is the worst free skate of all time by an Olympic gold medalist, except by way of inference. For example, as stated, it has the distinction of garnering the lowest placement by a gold medalist in a free program in Olympic history. Moreover, the descriptions of it are extremely unflattering - performing mostly single jumps, and the ultimate result was booed by the crowd (this was not the first time, moreover, that a crowd had displayed consternation at a result involving Schuba and Lynn - it also happened the previous year at the 1971 World Championships, where Lynn finished outside the medals despite winning the free program with a superb performance). Nevertheless, in winning the title, Schuba became the first Austrian to win the Olympic ladies event since Herma Szabo in 1924.
- Karen Magnussen would go on to win the 1973 World title, before retiring at the end of the 1972/73. Janet Lynn also retired at the end of that same season, without sadly having ever won a world or Olympic title (an awful fate for one of greatest ever ladies free skaters).
- Had there been no compulsories at the time Janet Lynn was skating as an amateur, then in terms of where she finished in the free program (and where relevant, the short program as well), she would have won a silver medal at the 1970 World Championships, she would have won both the 1971 and 1972 World Championships, and she still would have won a Silver at the 1973 World Championships due to a disastrous short program. She would also have become Olympic champion in 1972. Nevertheless, where Lynn finished in the free program (and where relevant, the short program) at the time does not tell the whole story. Had there been no compulsories, then all skaters would have focused their training on becoming better free skaters. Hence, who can tell in those circumstances whether Janet Lynn would still have been the best free skater of her generation. I strongly suspect that she would have been, but nobody can simply take that as a given/a certainty. Moreover, take away the compulsories, then the pressure is firmly on each skater to perform in the short and free programs in the shoot out for the medals. Lynn, in such circumstances, would have gone into the competition as the favourite. How would she have coped with that? When the weight given to the compulsories was reduced for the 1972/73 season, with a short program being introduced, this made Janet the favourite going into the 1973 World Championships. However, a disastrous short program cost her the title. Did she have the ruthless streak required to become a world/olympic champion? Its impossible to tell as its not possible to gauge a persons overall temperament for the big occasion on just 1 competition.
- Irina Rodnina & Alexei Ulanov win the pairs gold medal, winning both the short program and free skate to take the title. Rodnina & Ulanov were the reigning world champions going into the Olympics, having won the world title on 3 consecutive occasions between 1969-71. They would retain their world title after the 1972 Olympics. Nevertheless, the 1972 Olympics was a closely fought contest between them and their compatriots, Lyudmila Smirnova & Andrei Suraikin, who took the Silver. In fact, Ulanov missed a double salchow in the short program, and Rodnina made an error in the jump combination at the beginning of the free program. Despite this, however, they did just enough to win. The fact that they were not at their best during these Olympics may have been attributable to personal problem between Rodnina & Ulanov. As Sports Reference point out: "Rodnina was considered the stronger skater of her pair, and Ulanov, who was weary of her mocking him, became romantically involved with Smirnova. They would eventually marry and after 1972, Rodnina and Ulanov split as a pair skating couple. In Sapporo, knowing what was to come, Rodnina, who had once had strong romantic feelings for Alexei, left the ice in tears after their free skating performance."
- The 1972 Olympics was the first of three consecutive Olympic titles for Rodnina, who would go on to win the 1976 and 1980 titles with Alexander Zaitsev.
There is not much footage of the 1972 Olympics, but here is what there is:-
Gold: Ondrej Nepela (Czechoslovakia)
Free Skate (1971 World Championships)
Reception back in Czechoslovakia after winning the Olympics
Silver: Sergei Chetverukhin (USSR)
Free Skate (1972 European Championships), 2nd Copy
Bronze: Patrick Péra (France)
Clip from 1968 Olympics free program (16 seconds in)
4th: Kenneth Shelley (USA)
Free Skate (1972 U.S. Nationals), 2nd Copy
5th: John Misha Petkevich (USA)
Free Skate (1972 U.S. Nationals), 2nd Copy
Gold: Beatrix Schuba (Austria)
Compulsories, More Compulsories
Medal Ceremony - 7 mins 5 secs in
Free Skate (1972 European Championships)
Schuba/Lynn Controversy - 1971 World Championships
Silver: Karen Magnussen (Canada)
Free Skate (2 mins 48 secs in)
Free Skate (1973 World Championships)
Bronze: Janet Lynn (USA)
Compulsories (1 min 46 secs in), Free Skate (With Swans - 7 mins 38 secs in)
Free Skate (2nd Copy - 4 mins 54 secs in - No Swans)
3rd Copy - With Swans
4th Copy - No Swans
Profile, 2nd Profile, 3rd Profile, 4th Profile
4th: Julie Lynn Holmes (USA)
Free Skate (1972 U.S. Nationals), 2nd Copy
Gold: Irina Rodnina & Alexei Ulanov (USSR)
Free Skate - 7 mins 35 secs in
Silver: Lyudmila Smirnova & Andrei Suraikin (USSR)
Exhibition - March 1971
Bronze: Manuela Gross & Uwe Kagelmann (East Germany)
Short Program (1976 Olympics)
Free Skate (1976 Olympics)
4th: JoJo Starbuck & Kenneth Shelley (USA)
Short Program (1972 U.S. Nationals)
Free Skate (1972 U.S. Nationals)
As usual, many thanks to Floskate for uploading many of these videos to YouTube.
Unfortunately, it will be noted that the maker of the official 1972 Olympic film had an unfortunate fascination with swans , which somewhat spoils the Janet Lynn free skate footage