The 1982 European Figure Skating Championships

Held the first week of February 1982 at the Charlemagne Ice Rink in Lyon, France, the 1982 European Figure Skating Championships was a particularly compelling competition in that history was made in all four disciplines at the event that year... but not without putting the safety of many of the skaters in jeopardy. Today on the blog, we will take a look back at all of the excitement!


Norbert Schramm

To the pleasure of the French audience, Jean-Christophe Simond won the school figures at the 1982 European Championships ahead of defending champion Igor Bobrin, Heiko Fischer, Norbert Schramm and Vladimir Kotin. In the short program, Simond singled a double Axel and Bobrin stumbled on his jump combination, opening the door for Jozef Sabovčík - who was only seventh in the figures - to win that phase of the event ahead of Schramm, Rudi Cerne and Alexandr Fadeev.

In the free skate, the ordinals were all over the place and it was twenty one year old Norbert Schramm that came out on top. He nailed four triples including the Lutz, his only major error a fall on a triple loop attempt. His victory was not only particularly significant in that he had only placed third at that year's West German Championships: he actually became the first German skater to take the European men's title since the Berlin Wall was erected.

The men's podium

Skating last in the free skate, Simond rallied back with a jam-packed program with six clean triples (including a Lutz and flip) but fell attempting a second triple toe-loop and was hampered by artistic marks that weren't on par with Schramm's. Bobrin claimed the bronze, followed by Cerne, Fadeev, Fischer, Kotin and Sabovčík  . Poland's sole entry at the competition Grzegorz Filipowski finished ninth, skating to "The Impossible Dream" after taking a thirty-six hour train ride to the event. Future World Medallist Todd Sand, then representing Denmark, dropped from eighteenth in the figures to nineteenth overall.


Bronze Medallist Elena Vodorezova

In 1972, Trixi Schuba didn't win the free skate at the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. However, she did win the title based on a massive lead in the school figures. The exact same thing happened exactly ten years later in the women's event in Lyon, when Vienna's Claudia Kristofics-Binder became the first Austrian woman since Schuba to take the European title. Like Schuba, Kristofics-Binder won based on her exemplary school figures. She was only third in the short program and free skate, both of which were won by a young upstart from Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany you may have heard of named Katarina Witt. Witt skated last in the free skate and managed three triples - two toe-loops and a Salchow - but touched down on a triple flip attempt. Interestingly, Kristofics-Binder actually had the skate of her life in the free skate, matching Witt's effort with three clean triple Salchows but the judges preferred the verve and vitality of Witt and West Germany's Claudia Leistner. Witt's sixth place finish in the figures kept her in second. Elena Vodorezova of the Soviet Union claimed the bronze, followed by Debbie Cottrill of Great Britain, Leistner and Finland's Kristina Wegelius.


Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach

History was made in the pairs event when East Germans Sabine Baeß and Tassilo Thierbach became the first German team since Marika Kilius and Hans-Jürgen Bäumler to win the European title. In fact, they were the first non-Soviet team to win in eighteen years. It hadn't been easy. Defending champions Irina Vorobieva and Igor Livosky had narrowly defeated them in the short program. However, when an injured Irina fell twice in the free skate, it opened the door for Baeß and Thierbach and they met the challenge with an athletic free skate. Another Soviet pair, Marina Pestova and Stanislav Leonovich actually took the silver and Vorobieva and Livoski were forced to settle for bronze ahead of teams from the Soviet Union, East Germany, Great Britain, West Germany, France and Switzerland.


Nineteen teams competed in the ice dance event in Lyon but twenty four year old Jayne Torvill and twenty three year old Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were in a class of their own. They danced their way to their second consecutive European title with a stunning blues OSP to Larry Adler's "Summertime" and their iconic "Mack And Mabel" free dance. The Britons received eleven 6.0's throughout the competition, setting a new World record at the time... and a trend in their career. A report from the February 6, 1982 issue of "The Globe And Mail" recalled, "[Torvill] and Dean skimmed across the ice so close to each other at times that they appeared as one dancer, a marvel of technique.. Their dancing was light, charming and airy, yet strong."

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin in Lyon

Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin, students of Tatiana Tarasova, overshadowed their more experienced Soviet teammates Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov to claim the silver. Lynn Copley-Graves, in her book "Figure Skating History: The Evolution Of Dance On Ice" asserted that despite Bestemianova and Bukin's rise, they still had areas to improve upon in Lyon: "Some skaters skated on the ice, others skated above, but B&B skated into the ice, deeper in than others, digging, cutting, chipping away. You felt sorry for anyone who had to skate after them. The sweet Natalia transformed into a shrew sometimes, a sorcerer at others, as she took to the ice... Their free this year was overchoreographed in places, underchoreographed in other places." In fourth were Soviets Olga Volozhinskaya and Alexandr Svinin, followed by Karen Barber and Nicky Slater of Great Britain.

Top: Toller Cranston in Lyon covering the event for Canadian television. Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine. Bottom: Postcard from the event.

The real drama at the 1982 European Championships had absolutely nothing to do with figure skating... but it absolutely affected the safety of the skaters. The night before the men's free skate, a bomb went off in the parking lot of the rink. In his book "Jumpin' Joe", Jozef Sabovčík
recalled, "While in the warm-up for the long, I heard a commotion coming from the stands. There were demonstrators in the audience supporting the solidarity movement that was erupting in Poland... As I and the other skaters were standing on the ice, people jumped over the boards, holding banners with the word 'Solidarity' printed on them. The demonstrators began to throw bottles, shattering glass over the ice. We were quickly led off the rink, as security took control of the situation." Many of those shards of glass remained on the ice (which hadn't been flooded) while the final flight of men skated their programs, and the skaters had to keep an eye out for them, worrying both for their safety and jumps at the same time.

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