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

Discussion in 'The Trash Can' started by Maofan7, Mar 9, 2012.

  1. Maofan7

    Maofan7 Member

    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: Mar 9, 2012
  2. Susan M

    Susan M Well-Known Member

    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).
  3. bardtoob

    bardtoob Former Choreographer for Anna Maria Tragikova

    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: Mar 9, 2012
  4. judgejudy27

    judgejudy27 Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. bardtoob

    bardtoob Former Choreographer for Anna Maria Tragikova

    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: Mar 9, 2012
  6. kukkura

    kukkura Active Member

    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.
  7. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C

    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.
  8. briancoogaert

    briancoogaert Well-Known Member

    I still don't understand 1987 NHK Trophy. Midori Ito should have won it easily, IMO.
    bardtoob and (deleted member) like this.
  9. matti

    matti Active Member

    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...
  10. DarrellH

    DarrellH New Member

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

    falling_dance Coaching Patrick

    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)...
  12. judgejudy27

    judgejudy27 Well-Known Member

    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.
  13. falling_dance

    falling_dance Coaching Patrick

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

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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

    Ito and Harding were really good at this competition.
  15. LilJen

    LilJen Reaching out with my hand sensitively

    And Ito would have launched a huge jump to land out of the boards and squash her. :lol:
  16. johnny158

    johnny158 New Member


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

    See this '' Top jump'',,


    How about that?.. I think that kind of competition means ''the death of figure
    PeterG and (deleted member) like this.
  17. johnny158

    johnny158 New Member

    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''
  18. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C

    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.
  19. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C

    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.
  20. johnny158

    johnny158 New Member


    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..
  21. Alex Forrest

    Alex Forrest Banned Member

    I remember 87 NHK and was a bit perplexed by the results. I cannot see how Ito did not win this competition. There were no figures, and her freestyle was extraordinary. I always knew that at Worlds Witt would win over an Ito due to figures, but in a competition w/o them, how in the world could a judge give Witt a first place ordinal? Even Harding was outskating Witt by 1987. And yeah, what judge could give the same technical merit mark to both Ito and Witt given those performances? As much as I detest this new system, at least there can be SOME objectivity.
    There wasn't a rivalry, the judges wouldn't even consider it back then. If it wasn't for the fact that Jill Trenary was a total headcase, Ito would NEVER have won a world championship because Japanese fed politik was nonexistent at the time. Yamaguchi was too young and Trenary too unstable, so Ito snuck in for the title. Any other year a strong fed would have pulled out a win over Ito entirely due to figures.
  22. Jammers

    Jammers Well-Known Member

    Let me guess the judge who gave both Ito and Witt the same technical mark was probably from a eastern bloc country.
  23. judgejudy27

    judgejudy27 Well-Known Member

    Well Jill did her best in the figures and short program, and Ito still was in position she only had to win the long program to win. So no even a non headcase Jill could not have stopped her that year, the event was already in Itos control after the short program. If Ito didnt bomb her final figure at the 1990 Worlds she would have won there too, even if Jill had done her short program well.
  24. judgejudy27

    judgejudy27 Well-Known Member

    Bonalys jumps werent even that good in a way. She entered and landed with no flow, and she basically pole vaulted her way into them with mostly bad technique. The only impressive thing was she muscled off 7 triple programs, triple-triples, and good quad attempts inspite of that. Her lack of basic skating skills already made it impossible for her to do jumps the way excellent skaters like Ito and Harding could.

    Harding probably had even more natural talent than Ito. It is too bad not only she sabatoged herself, but the USFSA seemed blind to her potential, that are unable to look past her upbringing, in the second half of the 80s and constantly held her down, which I am sure contributed to her later jaded attitude, and also helped waste away many of her developmental and possibly prime years.
  25. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C

    Trenary could not have beaten the 1989 worlds program by Ito.She had five 6.0s, the rest 5.9s on tech, and her artistic marks went down only slightly (5.8s mostly). I remember Scott Hamilton's comment just before Jill started skating- (paraphrasing) she has to hope for 6.0s. It was not going to happen, and Jill skated like she knew there was no way she could beat those marks by Midori. She was not necessarily a head case. She was just very limited technically. Her hardest jump was the 3 flip, and she did not even land that consistently. At the 1990 worlds she did, and won with a decent but not great LP, but only because Midori blew the figures completely.
  26. Gabybackhand

    Gabybackhand Member

    It wasnt a rivalry due to figures. Had it not been for figures it probably would have been quite a close rivalry from 86-88 or atleast in 87 and 88. Witt always beat Ito in short and long programs but both skating in the final flight and having a chance at the medals they probably would be scored closer. In 88 Ito was probably really far superior but due to Witt's reputation they would still score them closely.
  27. Lnt175

    Lnt175 Member

    If figures had been done away with in the late 70s or early 80s rather than early 90s, then yes it would have been a great rivalry as Ito would have been able to realistically challenge Witt at the big competitions. Unfortunately Witt entered the 87 NHK event(even with no figures) as a huge favorite, and just needed to stand up to win. Ito was only considered a jumping bean(who made a small error on a combo to boot), who had to wait her turn till the next quad. That being said I disagree that Ito never raised the level of the sport. Ito came into her own as an all around skater at the 88 Olympics, and developed her own style. Quite frankly her skating and presentation was better than alot of Witts posing and resting sections in 87-88.(Her Carmen was very good at Euros, but I found it phony at the Olympics and worlds).

    And yes Ito did have a real triple Lutz.
  28. Gabybackhand

    Gabybackhand Member

    Witt's West Side Story was her best program ever. She should have kept it for a 3rd year since it was like her signature program especialy after how she skated it at the 87 Worlds. Her short programs were mostly really good too.

    Her Carmen was awful I thought, but I also cant think of any really good Carmens in skating ever. Krylova & Ovsiannikov's Carmen in 98 was scary bad. Sasha Cohen's Carmen in 2002 was weak with mostly just alot of ugly stroking between the elements. Plushenko's in 2002 was yucky. Fratianne's and Rueben's in 1980 and 1984 were boring. Slutskaya's in 2000 despite the year of her artistic growth was trivial with bizarre interpretation of the Carmen theme, and a trite ending which is why she lost that Worlds to Kwan as even with mistakes and less tech. content the judges gave her the highest tech. scores but she lost on some very low pres. scores. Navka & Kostomarov's in 2006 was decent although not spectacular, but I guess by default theirs is the best recent one.
  29. Lnt175

    Lnt175 Member

    Then you have Thomas Carmen the same years as Witts. I think it was a good program for her, but I don't think it was her best vehicle either. She did skate it nice at nats that season.