Witt, Tomba, Soviet hockey team dominate final Olympic weekend
Calgary, Alberta — Women's figure skating may look like an event that arrived FTD at the Winter Olympics, but it takes more than long-stemmed beauty to be a champion. Katarina Witt made that clear when she wrapped her extraordinary skill and artistry with puncture-proof concentration, oodles of determination, and considerable grace under pressure to win her second straight gold medal. As the defending champion, Witt was the one everybody was shooting for, even if American Debi Thomas, the leader entering the long program, was the only skater given a realistic chance of beating her.
But after Witt skated a typically well-executed program, Thomas, who had drawn the disadvantageous last position, came out firing blanks and botched several jumps. That settled it, and even allowed Canada's Elizabeth Manley, with the highest scores in the long program, to grab the silver medal as Thomas got the bronze.
``It just wasn't there,'' said Debi, who will go on to the world championships in Budapest later this month before continuing her studies at Stanford University. ``I count on making the first jump and it's hard when you don't make the first one. I just wasn't having fun after that.''
Witt made history by becoming the first woman to successfuly defend the Olympic title since Norway's Sonja Henie won her third consecutive gold at the 1936 Olympics.
``I am very proud about this because I wanted to repeat my championship,'' she said in English afterwards, cuddling her Howdy and Hidy Calgary mascots. Katarina plans to study for an acting career after the worlds, but left the door open for guest appearances with ice shows. ``I don't imagine I can stop skating tomorrow, because skating has been my life,'' she said.
While Witt's interpretation of music from the opera ``Carmen'' exhibited her usual flair, it wasn't the most technically difficult routine she could have tried.
The evening's five-alarm performances came from Manley and Japan's gyroscopic jumper, Midori Ito, who landed an amazing seven triple jumps, including the last one with clenched fist pumping in celebration.
Ito got a standing ovation, and Manley received even more applause from the partisan crowd. In the past, the Canadian skater has been known as inconsistent, but with so much attention focused on Witt and Thomas, she felt relaxed and happy as she took the ice for the most timely showstopping performance of her career. Soviets overwhelm hockey foes
Canadians had hoped hockey would share center stage with figure skating during the final days. Instead, the Soviets turned the medal round into a one-team power play with routs of Canada and Sweden, wrapping up the gold even before playing Finland on Sunday.
In Friday night's 7-1 massacre of the Swedes, they applied more heat than a good sauna, scoring 26 seconds into the game and piling up a 4-1 first period lead. Even Viktor Tikhonov, the dour Soviet coach, couldn't control his glee, breaking out a 100-watt smile and high-fiving with spectators.
Entering the Olympics the Soviets had appeared vulnerable after finishing second in three major competitions during the past year, but they reasserted their supremacy here in winning their seventh Olympic hockey gold to move ahead of Canada, which last won a title in 1952. Tomba strikes gold on slopes
While hockey was making its anticlimactic fadeout, Italy's Alberto Tomba charged down the slopes at Nakiska, leveling a hillside of pop-back gate poles on the way to consecutive skiing golds. The handsome Bologna Bullet has been the celebrity superstar of this season's World Cup circuit, and arrived here as the favorite in both the slalom and giant slalom. In his first race, the super giant slalom, Tomba la Bomba bombed after just the third gate. But in the giant slalom he took a whopping 1.14 second lead after the first round and cruised to victory. Two days later he struck gold again in the slalom, this time by overtaking West Germany's Frank Woerndl with a sensational second descent.
Tomba's Olympic stardom was expected, but Vreni Schneider's was not. She came to Calgary as an accomplished member of Swizerland's vaunted ski team, but without the pre-Olympic buildup accorded teammates Michela Figini and Maria Walliser. But while those two wound up with a pair of silvers and a bronze between them, Schneider matched Tomba's performance by winning both the slalom and giant slalom events.
Speed skating is a sport where split-second differences are the norm, as Christa Rothenburger is well aware. The East German star lost a gold medal by 2/100ths of a second to American Bonnie Blair in the 500 meters, but then edged teammate Karin Kania by 5/100ths to win the 1,000. Blair grabbed the bronze in the same race to become the only American to win more than one medal here.