There have been many great events in figure skating history in terms of World Championships and Olympics. In terms of whether an event is great, they can be great either because it is a very close and exciting contest, or because it includes one or more great individual performances. In terms of great world and Olympic events, the following 12 stand out for me (I've gone back no further than 1972 as there is a lack of footage for event beyond that point):-
1. 1972 Olympics (Ladies Competition): Beatrix Schuba v Janet Lynn. Schuba wins the Olympic title thanks to her strength in the school figures which made up 60% of the marks, but its Janet Lynn who wins the FS and the plaudits. Moreover, her fall whilst attempting a flying sit spin and the spontaneous smile that broke out on here face, helped elevate the popularity of figure skating worldwide, especially in Japan. Moreover, the adverse reaction to Schuba's win, built upon her strength in compulsories, despite a 7th place finish in the FS, would ultimately lead to the elimination of school figures at the end of the 1989/90 season
2. 1976 Olympics (Men's Competition): John Curry v Vladimir Kovalev (Curry: Short Program, Free Skate Kovalev: Short Program, Free Skate). The Men's competition had been promoted as a showdown between the superior artistry of John Curry and the greater athletic ability of Vladimir Kovalev. However, Curry's combination of great artistry, presentation, musical interpretation, and athleticism won him the title and took men's skating to a new level. After almost losing to Robin Cousins early in the 1975/76 season at the British Championships, he was unbeatable for the remainder of the season, winning the European Championships, the Olympic title, and the World Championships. Curry had almost given up after finishing 7th at the 1974 World Championships. But, Gus Lussi then helped sort out his jump technique, and Carlo Fassi improved his school figures. By the 1975/76 season, this enabled him to become the almost perfect all around skater. Accordingly, Curry took the Olympic title easily. Although, Kovalev won the silver, he never seriously challenged Curry for the Gold, finishing only 6th in the short program and 4th in the free skate
3. 1984 Olympics (Ice Dance): Torvill & Dean (Compulsory Dances, OSP, Free Dance) put ice dance on the map with their Bolera FD and helped take figure skating to new levels of popularity. When choosing and choreographing Bolero, there were concerns that the program was too radical. However, they needn't have worried as when they got to the Olympics, their Bolero performance garnered them twelve 6.0's (with all 9 judges awarding them 6.0's for artistic impression) and six 5.9's. It also helped that their Bolero Olympic FD was skated on St. Valentine's Day.
4. 1988 Olympics (Men's Competition): The Battle of the Brians (Boitano: Short Program, Free Skate Orser: Short Program, Free Skate). The men's competition was billed as 'the Battle of the Brian's' as Brian Orser was the reigning world champion, and Brian Boitano was his closest rival (and 1986 world champion). Going into the Olympics, the two Brian's had competed against each other 10 times, with Orser holding a 7-3 lead. Fadeev led after the compulsories, with Boitano 2nd and Orser 3rd. However, Orser won the short program, beating Boitano into 2nd. Nevertheless, Boitano held a narrow lead over Orser overall going into the long program, but as it was so slender, whoever finished ahead between them in the FS would win the Gold. Ultimately, Boitano won the free skate by 5 judges to 4, and the Olympic Gold Medal. Orser (skating to Dmitri Shostakovich's "The Bolt") double footed and then stepped out of the landing on his 3F and doubled out on a 3A (ironic, as he was known as 'Mr Triple Axel' as it was his trademark jump. Boitano's trademark jump was one he had invented - the 'Tano Triple Lutz', a Triple Lutz with one arm raised above the head), and that cost him the title. Boitano (skating to music from Carmine Coppola's 'Napoleon') had skated clean (apart from a very slightly double footed landing on a 3A), landing 8 triples, 2 of them 3A's. It should be noted, however, that of the 9 Judges, 4 of them made Orser the clear winner of the LP, whilst 3 of them made Boitano the clear winner. The other 2 Judges (from Denmark and Switzerland) had them tied. However, the tiebreaker was the technical mark, and both of the Judges had given higher technical merit marks to Boitano. Hence, the reason why Boitano won by 5 Judges to 4. The irony of all this is, that this was the last Olympics at which the technical mark was the tiebreaker. Subsequently, the artistic impression mark was used as the tiebreaker. Had that been the case in these Olympics, then Orser would have won the FS by 6 Judges to 3, and won the Gold medal. Petrenko won the Bronze.
5. 1988 Olympics (Ladies Competition): The Battle of the Carmens + Liz Manley & Midori Ito (Witt: Short Program, Free Skate Thomas: Short Program, Free Skate Manley: Short Program, Free Skate Ito: Short Program, Free Skate): Katarina Witt became the first female singles skater since Sonja Henie to both retain her Olympic title and win an Olympic title more than once. Both Witt and Debi 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'. Kira Ivanova won the compulsories, with Thomas second and Witt third. Manley placed fourth. Witt then won the short program, with Thomas second. However, Thomas took a slender lead over Witt going in to free skate (0.2 in terms of factored placements). In her Carmen Free Skate, 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. Ito's storming FS, finishing 3rd in the LP, moved her up to 5th overall.
6. 1989 World Championships (Ladies Competition): Midori Ito (Short Program, Free Skate) wins her first and only world title. Claudia Leistner led after the compulsories, with Trenary 2nd and Ito 6th. Ito then won the short program, with Trenary finishing 2nd. This moved Trenary up to 1st overall, with Ito 3rd (Leistner 2nd). Ito then produced what I think was one of the greatest ever performances of a program by a ladies singles skater, to win both the FS and the title. Her LP contained all 6 different types of triple jump (7 triples in total), including a 3T+3T combination and 3A (she had landed the first ever 3A by a lady in 1988 at the Aichi Prefecture Regional Competition, and then landed one for the first time internationally at the 1988 NHK Trophy). It changed the whole landscape of Ladies figure skating forever, forcing others to inject more difficult content into their programs to remain competitive (especially with compulsories being phased out altogether after the 1989/90 season) Trenary had a disastrous FS and fell to 3rd overall, with Leistner taking the Silver medal.
7. 1994 Olympics (Ladies Competition): Tonya & Nancy + Oksana (Baiul: Short Program, Free Skate Kerrigan: Short Program, Free Skate). After all of the controversy over the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, the actual Olympic competition itself came down to a showdown between Kerrigan and reigning world champion, Oksana Baiul. Kerrigan won the short program, with Baiul 2nd. In the free skate, Baiul produced a magical performance (despite having been injured in a collision with Tanja Szewczenko during practice) which displayed exquisite artistry, charisma, and verve, to win both the LP and the Olympic title. Kerrigan also produced a near flawless FS (Baiul winning the LP by 5 judges to 4) to finish 2nd both in the LP and overall.
8. 1994 Olympics (Pairs Competition): Gordeeva & Grinkov v Mishkutenok & Dmitriev (G&G: Short Program, Long Program M&D: Short Program, Long Program). G&G were the 1988 Olympic champions and 4 time world champions. They had retired after winning the 1990 world title. M&D were the 1992 Olympic champions and 2 time world champions. They had retired after winning the 1992 world title. Both pairs decided to return for the 1993/94 season in order to compete at the 1994 Olympics. Ultimately, G&G won both the SP and the LP to take the Olympic title, with M&D finishing 2nd overall. However, M&D performed their Rachmaninov LP brilliantly and many believe that they were under-marked and should have won the Gold medal. Personally, however, I still believe that G&G were the better pair and deserved their win. Nevertheless, the scores should have been closer than they were.
9. 1996 World Championships (Ladies Competition): Michelle Kwan v Chen Lu (Kwan: Short Program, Free Skate Chen: Short Program, Free Skate). An extremely close competition which Kwan won by a very narrow margin (6 judges to 3, with both getting two 6.0's for presentation in their LP's). The question of who should have won remains a controversial one to this day and either would have been a very worthy world champion. Both LP's were superb (Kwan: Salome, Chen: Rachmaninoff)
10. 1998 Olympics (Ladies Competition): Tara Lipinski v Michelle Kwan (Lipinski: Short Program, Free Skate Kwan: Short Program, Free Skate). Kwan led after an excellent SP (with 8 out of 9 Judges placing her first), with Lipinski 2nd. However, Lipinski would go on to win both the FS and the Olympic title, despite Michelle performing a clean 7-triple jump program which left her in 2nd place in the FS and overall. The greater technical difficulty which Lipinski injected into her own clean 7-triple jump LP (which included a 3R+3R combination, and a 3T+half R+ 3S sequence) won her title. Who should have won? This remains the subject of debate. Some prefer the greater artistry of Kwan, whilst others prefer what they consider to be the greater technical ability of Lipinski.
11. 2002 Olympics (Men's Competition): Alexei Yagudin v Evgeni Plushenko (Yagudin: Short Program, Free Skate Plushenko: Short Program, Free Skate). Yagudin had won the world title on 3 consecutive occasions between 1998-00. However, he was hampered by injuries during the 2000/01 season and Plushenko took the world title. Nevertheless, Yagudin regained the initiative during the 2001/02 season by defeating Plushenko in the GPF and at Europeans, and he then beat him comprehensively at the 2002 Olympics. In his FS, Yagudin garnered 4 6.0's for presentation and every other mark was a 5.9. In terms of the number of 6.0's, it was the most earned by a skater at an Olympics since Torvill & Dean obtained 12 of them in 1984 for their Bolero program.
12. 2010 Olympics (Ladies Competition): Kim Yu-Na v Mao Asada (Kim: Short Program, Free Skate Mao: Short Program, Free Skate). Going into the Olympics, both Kim and Mao had won 1 world title each. However, Kim was in the ascendancy, having easily won the 2009 world title with a superb performance. She had stepped up to a new level, and she was more consistent than she had been. In contrast, Mao had been struggling. She was no longer landing her trademark 3A consistently, she was no longer performing the lutz because she kept on flutzing it, and she was getting under-rotation and edge calls. She also had no consistent 3+3 combination she could rely upon. At the Olympics, Kim won comprehensively, setting new world records for the SP, the LP, and for the total score. Mao finished 2nd
So, which of these 12 world and Olympic events was the greatest?