The 1982 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

In late January of 1982, over two hundred of Canada's best figure skaters flocked to subzero Brandon, Manitoba for the 1982 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. While there were complaints about the ice in the tiny Kinsman Arena which was used for practices, the skaters and audiences alike raved about the great ice and audiences in the Keystone Centre where the competition was held. Thousands watched the CTV broadcast and today, you'll feel like you did too if you didn't, as we hop back in the top machine and revisit the skaters and stories at this exciting event!


Lucie Vallee and Francois Vallee of the CPA Montreal Nord lead the way in the novice compulsory dances but were overtaken by Jo-Anne Borlase and Scott Chalmers in the variation dance. Shauna Thomchuk and Alan Becken of the Thompson Figure Skating Club edged Leanne Turney and Robert Polland for bronze in a field of sixteen couples.

Thirteen year old Melissa Murphy of St. Catharine's, Ontario jumped from seventh after figures to win the novice women's title. She landed a triple toe-loop in her first appearance at the Canadian Championships but fell on a double Axel. Fourteen year old Manon Maurice of Repentigny was second and fifteen year old Melanie Jaeger of Burlington, who had won the figures, third. Frank Nowosad praised Patricia Wong's free skate "for its delicacy and sensitivity." She placed all the way down in ninth in a field of sixteen.

Defying the logic that an early start order was death under the 6.0 system, Christine Hough and Kevin Wheeler drew first to skate in the novice pairs event and were placed first by all seven judges in a field of twelve. Christine's ability to sell a program was evident even at her young age. Lynne Wagner and Ron Dale were second; Tammy and Dion Beleznay third. However, the talk of the novice pairs event were the youngest and tiniest pair in the competition. Brooke Petersmeyer and Kevin Playle, a pair of eleven year olds, were from Winnipeg and the Manitoba crowd went berserk over their performance.

Thirteen year old Marc Ferland of Beauport, Quebec finished first in both figures in free skating to take the novice men's title with ease. Sixteen year old Scott Rachuk of British Columbia was second and fourteen year old Blaise Kirchgesner of Saskatchewan third. Donald Jackson noted that Ferland "skated his free skating program well and deserved to win" but that "a big improvement in his presentation would come about if he would learn to keep his head up. He has a tendency to keep looking down at the ice." Michael Slipchuk was tenth and a young Kurt Browning twelfth of thirteen competitors in his first trip to the Canadian Championships! In his book "Kurt: Forcing The Edge" he wrote, "I asked Mom if I was really as bad as my marks made out. She thought for a minute, and then said, 'Yes'. The truth hurt, but the truth was that I badly needed help." That result spurred Kurt to make the move to the Royal Glenora Club.

Dianna Poirier and Brett Schrader. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

There were numerous deductions in the junior pairs short program. The favourites, Lynda and John Ivanich, got dinged on the twist and Leslie Robinson and Neil Tymoruski on the throw double toe-loop. Leaders Julie Brault and Richard Gauthier and Bonnie Epp and Leonard Warkentin skated clean. Epp and Warkentin had been beat by the Ivanich's at both B.C. Sectionals and Western Divisionals and both the fact these teams were 1-2 after the short program surprised many. However, Brault and Gauthier ended up winning the gold with a confident, fast program that featured more difficult lifts than their competitors. Epp and Warkentin remained in second and Robinson and Tymoruski moved up to third ahead of Lynn Frasson and Mark Bystreck and the Ivanich's in a field of eleven teams.

The junior ice dancers had a Tango OSP in 1982. Teri-Lyn Black and Mirko Savic won the title, besting Isabelle and Duchesnay (fourth in compulsories), Michelle McDonald and Patrick Handley, Dianna Poirier and Brett Schrader and eleven other teams. They 'skated up' in senior ice dance event, where they placed eighth out of nine couples. Mary Angela Munro and Craig Sterling of the Halifax Skating Club were thirteenth.

Julie Brault and Richard Gauthier. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

Nineteen year old Mickey Prilsauer of Sudbury led the junior men after figures, followed by Andre Bourgeois of Dieppe, New Brunswick, Troy Ruptash of Edmonton and Hamitota, Manitoba's Lyndon Johnston. Johnston moved up to win the gold with his fearless free skating efforts ahead of Brad McLean, Bourgeois and Louis Lasorsa. Prilsauer ended up in sixth. Donald Jackson praised Johnston's "good speed and body lines that may have been developed through his pair skating." The results in the junior women's event were all over the freaking place. Three different women won all three phases of the competition... and none of them won the gold or silver medals. Monica Lipson of the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club took that honour. She was fourth in the school figures and the short program and second in the free skate but Frank Nowosad praised her "ability to enhance rather plain movement." Rewarded for consistency in placing in the top five in all three rounds of competition, Natalie Reimer of Lethbridge, Alberta was second. Figures winner Lana Sherman was third, free skate winner Melinda Kunhegyi fourth and short program winner Tracey Robertson fifth.


Brian Orser, Tracy Wilson, Rob McCall, David Dore, Barbara Underhill, Paul Martini and Kay Thomson. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

Six teams vied for the senior pairs title in Brandon and the clear favourites, Barbara Underhill of Oshawa and Paul Martini of Woodbridge, did not disappoint. They won the short program with a powerful performance to "Channel One Suite" by Bill Reddie, earning first place ordinals from all seven judges. The results remained the same from first through last in the free skate. Underhill and Martini executed a triple twist and a huge throw triple Salchow, however Paul fell on a side-by-side double Salchow. In spite of the error, they earned all 5.8's for technical merit and 5.7's and 5.8's for artistic impression.

The silver medal went to Lori Baier and Lloyd Eisler; the bronze to Becky Gough and Mark Rowsom. Three judges rewarded 5th place team Katherina Matousek and Eric Thomsen's clean "Swan Lake" free skate (replete with double Axels) higher marks than the teams above them. Baier and Eisler's free skate employed elements of mime and featured a gorgeous throw triple loop. Fourth place team Melinda Kunhegyi and Lyndon Johnston were major crowd favourites, as Lyndon hailed from Manitoba.

The 1982 Canadian Champions in fours skating. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine.

In 1982, fours skating was reintroduced to the Canadian Figure Skating Championships for the first time in eighteen years. Of the five teams that skated, four were from Ontario. The champions were Melinda Kunhegyi, Becky Gough, Lyndon Johnston and Mark Rowsom. Three young future Canadian Champions participated but failed to make the podium: Christine Hough, Isabelle Brasseur and Jean-Michel Bombardier.


Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall

With the reigning Canadian Champions Marie McNeil and Rob McCall parting ways and fellow Nova Scotian contenders Gina Aucoin and Hans-Peter Ponikau retiring, the Canadian ice dance landscape looked very different in 1982. McCall was back with a brand new partner... Tracy Wilson. They had only been skating together for five and a half months when they arrived in Brandon but under Bernard Ford's tutelage had already won a medal at the Ennia Challenge Cup and taken the gold at the Western Divisional Championships to qualify. In the Blues and Viennese Waltz, Wilson and McCall squeaked out a tiny lead, with Joanne French and John Thomas and Kelly Johnson and Kris Barber tied for second. In the third compulsory dance, Wilson and McCall increased their lead and a timing problem dropped French and Thomas to third.

John Thomas. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

All teams excelled in the Blues OSP, but teams who gave a more bawdy interpretation of the Blues seemed to garner higher marks from the panel of seven judges. Wilson and McCall won their first Canadian title with their "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" free dance that was described by Greg Young as "nothing short of a masterpiece."

In her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice", Lynn Copley-Graves raved, "They poured out dynamic strength and theatrical savvy in the ascent above others who had years of experience together." Despite performing a charismatic free dance to "Rhapsody In Blue", French and Thomas remained behind Johnson and Barber. Fourth place went to future Canadian Champions Karyn and Rod Garossino.


Kay Thomson

In the height of the CFSA's Tracey Wainman fever, the unexpected happened: she didn't win. Despite suffering from a bad stomach flu, Wainman won all three figures (the rocker, paragraph double three and change loop) with marks ranging from 4.2-4.7. Barbara Graham said she hadn't seen such good figures at Nationals since Karen Magnussen retired. That said, however much Wainman managed to pull it together in Brandon, it was clear to her competitors that she was legitimately sick.

In the short program, sixteen year old Elizabeth Manley of Ottawa rose to the occasion with a fiesty performance to take the lead over seventeen year old Kay Thomson of Toronto and a hometown favourite, 1981 Canadian Junior Champion Diane Obigowski of Minnedosa, Manitoba, who made her senior debut at the Canadian Championships in her home province. Wainman tumbled and finished a disappointing fourth and many felt that Charlene Wong, in fifth, had outskated her as well.

Elizabeth Manley's coaches Bob McAvoy and Anne Schelter had put together a challenging, if not overwhelming free skate to Prokofiev's "Cinderella" for her. Frank Nowosad wrote, "The nervous sounding music used for the opening established an insistent tempo that set Manley off and running at a rate from which she never let up, not even during the adagio passages. It is difficult to discern if the frantic pace is due to the brevity of the musical cuts, the desire to get everything done, or to the quality of Manley's movement. I suspect all three. Such a complex program demands technical exactitude and Manley came forth accordingly." Manley won the free skate ahead of Thomson, whose traditional free skate to "Marinarella" by Julius Fučík (choreographed by Sandra Bezic) was also well received, however Manley's sixth place finish in the school figures kept her behind Thomson overall. Wainman, off kilter in her free skate, fell three times but managed the bronze medal with a lot of help from her win in the school figures. Obigowski, Wong, Andrea Hall and Kathryn Osterberg - who was third to figures and second to last in the free skate - followed.

In her 1991 book "Thumbs Up!", Manley wrote, "Tracey had taken her defeat very hard. She was devastated by her performance, not really able to grasp what had happened to her... All the attention had taking its toll and she had been unable to maintain her number-one status. Kay, Charlene and I tried to cheer her up, but she obviously felt terrible. It was difficult for the rest of us to celebrate, knowing how hard she had taken it."


Brian Pockar. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

To say that the odds were stacked against twenty two year old Brian Pockar in 1982 is a huge understatement. After losing his national title in Halifax in 1981 and placing behind Brian Orser at the World Championships that followed in Hartford, Connecticut, he had missed Skate America after suffering complications following an operation for a ruptured appendix. Then came the two stress fractures in his left leg in practice that caused him to miss the NHK Trophy in Japan. With only about two months of training, he arrived in Brandon unprepared and fueled by determination. He won the school figures with first place ordinals from six of the seven judges. The seventh tied Pockar and twenty one year old Gary Beacom, who won the second figure. Brian Orser, Gordon Forbes and Dennis Coi followed in the standings.

Brian Orser won the short program with a clean performance, earning 5.8's and 5.9's. His victory left Pockar and Orser in a tie with 2.2 points each under the scoring system in place at the time. Coi was second in the short program, skating cleanly though almost running into the boards after landing a required double Salchow. Pockar missed his double flip/triple toe combination. It was his first time falling in a short program at the Canadian Championships in seven appearances. He earned marks from 4.8 to 5.7 and placed fourth in that phase of the event. Beacom landed his double flip/triple toe but missed his double Axel and was third. Pockar was critical of the 'new marking system' at the time that all but assured the winner of the long program would take the gold, questioning why performing the figures and short program was even necessary.

In the free skate, Brian Orser skated very well - landing a triple Axel - but was slightly off balance on the landings of his triple Lutz and triple Salchow. In his 1988 book "Orser: A Skater's Life" he wrote, "I didn't know if I had won, but thank goodness, I had the right panel... Everyone was thrilled, because Brian had skated well. Many thought he had beaten me, but he made some mistakes, too. It could have gone either way."

Two of the seven judges tied Orser with Pockar, who actually upped his game with a more technically demanding program than usual despite injuring himself a third time in practice before the free skate. Missing a triple toe-loop, he had spiked his right foot with the heel of his left blade and ending up in the hospital getting stitches. Coi skated brilliantly to move up and take the bronze. Beacom fell on his first two jumps, fought back hard but slipped to fourth.

Donald Jackson noted, "Brian Pockar was the biggest surprise to me and I felt that his long program was the most exciting event of the Canadian Championships and with his performance, almost won back his title." Stating the obvious, Pockar observed, "I don't know why it is but every time I stick another triple jump into my program my artistic impression mark goes up." Some things never change.

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