Pope John Paul II was just about to announce the institution of World Youth Day. You couldn't walk a block down the street without seeing shoulder pads and smelling Aquanet. "Rocky IV" was the number one film at the box office and Mr. Mister topped the music chart with "Broken Wings".
The year was 1985 and from December 11 to 15, talented young skaters from all around the world flocked to the Zetra Ice Rink in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia to compete in the 1986 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.
Almost all of the skaters took to the ice to compete on Friday the 13th, an unlucky omen that seemed amplified by the events that transpired before and during the competition. The long and stressful journeys many skaters, coaches and officials took to get to the site of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games were unfortunate. Heavy fog meant that almost everybody had to travel by train from Belgrade or Zagreb. The trains didn't have restaurant cars. The Americans flew on a red-eye from Copenhagen only to get stuck in Belgrade for several hours waiting for the train. When they got on, they found themselves surrounded by drunk people puking their guts up everywhere. The Australians had it even worse. The team had all been in Banská Bystrica, Czechoslovakia competing in an international junior event. They had received a telex invitation to participate in a similar event in Poland but when they got to the border, the guards pulled them all off the train and told them they had to go back to Ostrava. In the hubbub, Tracy Lee Brook's skates disappeared. The skaters slept on benches while they waited five hours to go back to Ostrava. After receiving their visas, they made it to Poland, where Tracy Lee Brook managed to get a new pair of skates. While breaking them in, she fell and sprained her ankle. Bad weather forced them to take a six hour train ride to Warsaw where they boarded a Lufthansa flight to Vienna via Frankfurt. Fire trucks met their plane on the runway in Austria - the brakes were on fire! The Aussies finally arrived in Sarajevo after two more train trips.
During the women's short program, the Belgian judge was noticeably ill and struggled to keep up with his duties. After the event, it was finally realized that he was having a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital and replaced by substitute judge Therese Maisel of France in the semi-final skate-off and free skate.
Photo courtesy "Skate" magazine
When the event was over, several skaters skipped the exhibitions and closing banquet to try to get on trains before the fog set in. Those who waited to try to fly out on Monday morning found their flights were cancelled. They were forced to leave the city by train. Did the skaters rail journeys inspire them to be "The Little Engine That Could" or a "Runaway Train Never Coming Back" in Sarajevo? Let's take a look back at how everything played out on the ice!
THE ICE DANCE COMPETITION
A group of young Soviet ice dancers in an off-ice class. In the fore are Maya Usova and Alexandr Zhulin (left) and Elena Krikanova and Evgeni Platov (right)
An ISU rule change required both partners in a dance and pairs team to be under the age of eighteen the July prior the event. While this posed a challenge to some federations with small pools of emerging talent, the Soviet Union had no less than thirty six promising dance couples under the age of fourteen!
Elena Krikanova and Evgeni Platov
Odessa teenagers Elena Krikanova and Evgeni Platov dominated the dance event in Sarajevo from start to finish, easily defeating their teammates Svetlana Serkeli and Andrei Zharkov and the French duo of Corinne Paliard and Didier Courtois. It was Krikanova and Platov's third consecutive win at the World Junior Championships - a feat that has not been repeated to this day in dance. The couple were age-ineligible to compete for a fourth time in Kitchener the following year so Krikanova turned professional and joined the Russian All-Stars. Platov, as we all know, went on to win two Olympic gold medals with Oksana Grishuk, who won a World junior title of her own in Brisbane in 1988 with Alexander Chichkov.
Canada was well-represented by Melanie Cole and Martin Smith of Newmarket, Ontario and Catherine Pal of Thornhill, Ontario and Don Godfrey of Newmarket. Cole and Smith placed fourth; Pal and Godfrey seventh. Both couples were coached by Roy and Sue Bradshaw. The unfortunate fact about the dance event in Sarajevo was that the stands of the Zetra Ice Rink were practically empty. More spectators showed up for the exhibitions that the free dance! Those who did show up had the awkward habit of loudly clapping to encourage a skater when they fell. The young athletes, many not used to dealing with audiences period, were quite thrown off by it.
Amanda Worthington and Andrew Place. Photo courtesy "Skate" magazine.
An unfortunate accident in practice happened just prior to the competition. The day of the draw, Switzerland's Desiree Schlegel and Patrick Brecht collided with the British team, Amanda Worthington and Andrew Place. Worthington was sent flying into the air feet first and had to be carried off the ice by Roy Bradshaw. Worthington and Place ended the event in eleventh; Schlegel and Brecht finished fourteenth out of the fifteen couples entered.
THE WOMEN'S COMPETITION
Sessions with the Canadian team's physiotherapist allowed Australia's Tracy Lee Brook to compete. However, a heavily wrapped foot coupled with a brand new pair of skates put her all the way down in twenty third out of twenty seven skaters in the figures, taking her completely out of the running. The figures were won by Jana Sjodin, a sixteen year old from St. Paul, Minnesota who trained at the Broadmoor with Carlo and Christa Fassi.
Jana Sjodin. Photo courtesy "Skate" magazine.
West Germany's Susanne Becher won the short program over East Germany's Inga Gauter and Natalia Gorbenko of the Soviet Union. A fifteenth place finish in the short took Jana Sjodin out of the running for the title. Linda Florkevich, a seventeen year old who trained at the North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver with Cynthia Trudeau, aspired to be the next Liz Manley. It showed in her plucky "Oklahoma!" free skate which featured three clean triples - two toe-loop's and a Salchow. However, Kiev's Gorbenko had the edge on difficulty, landing a triple loop, Salchow and toe-loop and two-footing a second toe-loop to take the win. Becher held on to the silver despite placing only fourth in the free. Florkevich's bronze was the first women's medal at the World Junior Championships since Liz Manley in Oberstdorf in 1982. Canada's second entry, Diane Takeuchi of Toronto, placed fourteenth but was praised highly for her strong spins which some felt rivalled Kay Thomson's. America's Holly Cook, third in the World Championships in Halifax in 1990, placed eighth.
Inga Gauter. Photo courtesy German Federal Archive.
Those of you who are really into jumps might find it interesting to note that two of the young women competing had 'big triples' in their repertoires. Inga Gauter was the only woman to attempt a triple flip and she squeaked it out in a kneeling position. One of the two Japanese skaters, Masako Kawai, landed a triple Lutz in the warmup but doubled it in her performance. The triple flip, in particular, was increasingly rare in women's figure skating in those days - let alone in the junior ranks.
THE PAIRS COMPETITION
Dnipropetrovsk's Irina Mironenko and Dmitri Shkidchenko, the Silver Medallists at the previous year's World Junior Championships, took the lead in the short program despite the fact that their own judge had them third behind the other two Soviet couple.
In the free skate, Mironenko and Shkidchenko dropped to second while twelve year old Elena Leonova and seventeen year old Gennadi Krasnitski moved up from third to claim the gold with a technically difficult free skate to "My Fair Lady". The bronze went to twelve year old Ekaterina Murugova and sixteen year old Artem Torgashev. Both Leonova and Krasnitski and Murugova and Torgashev attempted side-by-side triple jumps in the free skate.
Americans Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy Galindo placed fifth. They were coached by Jim Huluck and mentored by Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. Just behind them were the talented American sibling duo of Ginger and Archie Tse, who hailed from Atlanta but trained in Wilmington. The Tse's programs were especially novel for a junior pair - their short was a play on musical instruments where he 'played' her back like an organ and playfully slapped her on the head as if she was a drum and their free had a karate theme. Quebec pairs Isabelle Brasseur and Pascal Courchesne and Penny Schultz and Scott Grover placed seventh and ninth. Sandwiched between them were a third Canadian pair, Laura and James Ivanich from Vancouver, who had Yugoslavian roots.
THE MEN'S COMPETITION
Despite winning the loop, the final figure, Rudy Galindo sat in second overall entering the short program. The figures were won by fourteen year old Vladimir Petrenko of Odessa, the younger brother of Viktor Petrenko. Viktor had won the event two years previous and Vladimir had finished second the year before. Third in the figures was fifteen year old Yuriy Tsymbalyuk, also of the DSO Spartak in Odessa.
The men, like the women, were required to include a double loop as part of their combination jump in the short program. Rudy Galindo did a double loop/triple toe-loop combination and Vladimir Petrenko played it safer, doing the triple toe-loop as the first jump. Despite this - and the fact he finished after his music - he still earned first place ordinals from seven of the nine judges, enough for first. In "Skate" magazine, Sandra Stevenson noted, "At the banquet following the championships he was asked to dance with the girls' winner and had great difficulty with a waltz. It was suggested he doesn't hear the music well."
Vladimir Petrenko won the free and the gold with a less than stellar performance. He managed to stay upright throughout, but had problems with the landings of his triple Lutz, triple flip and triple Salchow. Rudy Galindo placed third in the free and second overall with a five triple free skate that included both triple flip/double toe-loop and double flip/triple toe-loop/double toe-loop
Second in the free but fourth overall due to a poor showing in the figures was Michael Shmerkin, then fifteen years old, living in Kharkov and representing the Soviet Union. Michael landed five triples of his own, including a triple Salchow/triple toe-loop, but fell on a double Axel. Yuriy Tsymbalyuk took the bronze despite landing only one clean triple in the free. Future World Champion Todd Eldredge was fifth; future two Olympic Bronze Medallist Philippe Candeloro an unlucky thirteenth. Canada's two men, sixteen year old Brent Frank of Saskatoon and fifteen year old Cory Watson of Cambridge, Ontario placed twelfth and sixteenth. The Canadian Press misidentified Brent Frank as 'Frank Bent'.
Korean skater Jung Sung-il surprised many by showing off his triple Lutz and placed sixth. It was the first top ten finish by a Korean man in the event's history. Another interesting little piece of history about this event is the fact that Rudy Galindo added himself to the record books as only the fourth skater in history to compete in more than one discipline at the World Junior Championships. The first was Canada's Lorri Baier, who competed in singles and pairs in 1978. The second was Australia's Stephen Carr, who competed in singles and pairs in 1983. The third was Jerod Swallow, who competed in pairs and dance in 1985 - with different partners!
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