Held from October 30 to November 2, 1986 in Regina, Saskatchewan, the 1986 Skate Canada International competition was a star-studded event that featured over fifty skaters from thirteen countries. Notably absent were Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall, who instead opted to compete at the Novarat Trophy in Budapest to get a feel for the rink that was to be used for the 1988 World Championships. The creaky, dimly-lit Exhibition Stadium was the venue for the men's and women's school figures, with all other events held at the nine year old Regina Agridome. Many skaters complained about the stuffy, dry air in the arena. Quoted in the November 3, 1986 issue of the "Leader Post", Yugoslavia's Zeljka Cizmesija complained, "I found it hard to breathe." Elizabeth Manley added, "The air is extremely dry here... that and the scent from the flowers and the popcorn from the concessions made it hard on all of us."
Attendance was down from the 1984 Canadian Championships in Regina, with about eighteen thousand of the twenty seven thousand seats in the Regina Agridome filled during most sessions. However, the three hundred and ninety four thousand dollar event net a profit of approximately thirty five thousand dollars. Quoted in the November 3, 1986 issue of the "Leader Post", event co-chairman Gerry Walsh remarked, "The compliments from the competitors and officials have been so positive. A judge told me that she has never witnessed a better run event than this one. That makes me feel good." Media attention was ample, though not extensive. "The Globe And Mail", The Canadian Press in Edmonton, "The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix", CKCK Radio, CBC Radio and the "Leader Post" covered the event on a daily basis, and Johnny Esaw, Brian Pockar and Debbi Wilkes commentated television coverage on CTV. Television crews from ABC and TSN also covered the event. Thanks to Alice Frederick of the Regina Public Library, I'm able to shed a great deal of light on this exciting competition. Bundle up and hop in the time machine as we take a look back at this fascinating event!
THE PAIRS COMPETITION
Sixteen year old Ekaterina Gordeeva and nineteen year old Sergei Grinkov were the heavy favourites to take the gold in the pairs event in Regina. Winning the short program with first place marks from every judge, they appeared well on their way to what should have been an easy win. That's not exactly how things played out.
In the free skate, Gordeeva tumbled three times and Canada's Cynthia Coull and Mark Rowsom managed to defeat Gordeeva and Grinkov with first place marks from six of the seven judges. Canadians Denise Benning and Lyndon Johnston dropped to fifth and American siblings Natalie and Wayne Seybold moved up to take the bronze.
Quoted in the November 4, 1986 issue of the "Windsor Star", Rowsom admitted, "I was the most surprised person in the building when we discovered we had won. We didn't see Gordeeva and Grinkov skate so we didn't know they didn't skate well. We really didn't think we had a chance of catching them because we never thought they'd have as much trouble as they did. We knew we were skating well Saturday but there was no reason for us to expect they'd skate below their usual level. They were great in practices and we weren't so the way things turned out was a tremendous surprise." In reality, Gordeeva was suffering from a bad cold at the event. In her book "My Sergei", she admitted that they "weren't well prepared". This was around the time where they made the coaching switch from Stanislav Zhuk to Stanislav Leonovich and would prove to be one of the legendary G and G's only losses in international competition.
THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION
|Karyn and Rod Garossino|
THE MEN'S COMPETITION
Prior to the event, East Germany's Joachim Edel withdrew due to injury. The Soviet Union opted to replace Vladimir Petrenko, who had initially been slated to compete, with Vitali Egorov. Twenty year old Grzegorz Filipowski of Poland opted to compete despite the fact he was suffering from a groin injury. Escorted by a Skate Canada volunteer to Regina's Polish Club, he reluctantly accepted a small donation towards his training costs raised by a collection of the club's members. Egorov took a commanding lead in the school figures, ahead of Filipowski and France's Frédéric Harpagès. Young American Christopher Bowman won the short program with a clean and stylized performance, but was only able to pull up to fourth after a disapponting sixth place showing in the figures.
Despite being upstaged by Bowman, Filipowski and Czechoslovakia's Petr Barna in the latter phases of the event, Egorov turned in a clean but utterly uninspired five-triple free skate to take the gold. Commentating for CTV, Debbi Wilkes remarked, "He's got the good tricks, but it's very boring to me." Brian Pockar added, "It's absolutely frustrating for me to watch this program, because I have absolutely nothing to comment on besides putting checkmarks beside the number of triples that he's landed." Bowman moved up to take the silver ahead of Bowman, Filipowski and Canada's Neil Paterson. Canada's second entry, Michael Slipchuk of Edmonton, placed ninth.
THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION
Elizabeth Manley warming up backstage
Prior to the event, Japan's Juri Osada and Finland's Elise Ahohen withdrew due to injury, as did Rosemarie Sakic of Burnaby, British Columbia, who broke her foot trying to land a triple loop. America's Tiffany Chin also pulled out at the last minute and was replaced by Tracey Damigella. The USFSA didn't volunteer a reason for Chin's withdrawal and predictably, rumours swirled that the reason was because they didn't want to pit her against Elizabeth Manley. In reality, she'd been a replacement for Debi Thomas at Skate America only two weeks prior. Manley was coming off a win the month prior at St. Ivel in Richmond, England was heavily favoured to take the gold. She won the first two figures, but lost the change loop to sixteen year old Joanne Conway of Great Britain. The overall lead in figures was only Manley's second ever at an international competition. Quoted in the October 31, 1986 issue of the "Montreal Gazette", she remarked, "I was a little disappointed in the counter but maybe it made me better, I came back fighting. If I skate figures boldly, I usually do them very good. I didn't have that boldness in the first figure... I was about third or fourth... but that put the boldness back in me. The second figure was one of the best I've ever done." Third after figures, Natalia Lebedeva of the Soviet Union won the short program ahead of West Germany's Claudia Leistner and Manley, who two-footed in the required double toe-loop in her triple toe-loop/double toe-loop combination. Joanne Conway dropped to fourth overall with a fifth place showing in the short program and Manley maintained the overall lead.
Rallying back in the free skate, Manley earned a standing ovation for a gutsy performance that earned marks ranging from 5.5 to 5.8. She took the gold over Leistner, Conway, Damigella and America's Kelly Szmurlo but admitted, "It wasn't how I wanted to win."
What she meant by that statement was the fact her chief competition, Natalia Lebedeva, was forced to withdraw after twisting her knee on a bad mid-program fall on a triple Salchow. Taken to the hospital for treatment after leaving the ice with the assistance of her coach and medical staff, Lebedeva watched the Exhibition Of Champions from the stands. Manley skated over and presented her with a bouquet of flowers in a touching display of good sportsmanship.
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