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1984 Olympics: Katarina Witt, Rosalynn Sumners and Elaine Zayak

Updated on May 2, 2017

Katarina Witt in 1984

Katarina Witt: the declared winner

Katarina Witt won the title.

And more importantly Witt earned a generally consented support from the judges. But the footage above didn't show why Witt could be ahead of Sumners or even Zayak.

You must bear in mind the 1984 Olympics was after Biellemann's retirement and enactment of Zayak rule.

That means there was a cloud of suppression against Elaine Zayak, while looking for a new leader who can put down jumpers' rebellion; the young Midori Ito was also rapidly rising through the rank of veteran skaters.

So it was quite natural that Katarina Witt was seen a person of interest who can revive the traditional ideal of ladies figure skating, preferred to jumpers.

However, you can't help wondering if Witt's winning the competition or in free skating was correct after watching Witt's performance.

Katarina Witt's winning in free skating, or even claiming the title is not convincing, to mildly put it. But truth is, in today's standards there is no chance for Witt to stand on the top podium for sure.

Rosalynn Sumners really lost to Witt here? How about Elaine Zayak?

Witt' skating at her best in a powerful shape would barely match the average of Zayak or Sumners, but Witt looked far from it.

Katarina Witt in 1984

Katarina Witt, first Olympic win

In the short program Witt pulled out a decent program. Witt's music choice was excellent. That suited her better than lyrical or classic pieces would, but her scores weren't compatible with what she had demonstrated.

In the scoreboard, Witt earned 5.7 or 5.8 from all judges except a U.S. judge. The U.S. judge might have had some bias toward Witt since two American medal contenders were participating in the event.

But even taking that into account, Witt's marks didn't reflect her performance squarely. In the same pool with Sumners and Zayak, the maximum range Witt reasonably could have with that performance was 5.6, unless Sumners and Zayak really screwed.

Elaine Zayak in 1984

Elaine Zayak: the undeclared winner

If judged correctly, Zayak couldn't have lost. Zayak was definitely the winner of free skating

Simply Witt's performance wasn't good enough to beat Zayak or even Sumners. Without much blame, the judges could have put Witt ahead of Sumners, but Witt was nowhere near beating Zayak.

Witt's skating here barely saved her from being humiliated.

Zayak, as pioneering jumper or the first jumper since the era of legends, was the first victim of biased rule and its judging policy.

Zayak didn't lose.

I think, after Zayak, the ISU and the judges eventually found it very hard to ignore what jumpers are entitled to, as obvious in Midori Ito, in terms of a certain qualities they are doing better than other non-jumpers.

But Zayak was a more rounded skater - and with a lot fewer defects - than Midori Ito.

Elaine Zayak in 1984

In short program, Elaine Zayak didn't lose edge, but the ISU was determined to cull Zayak in the name of suppressing jumpers rebellion.

Neither Witt nor Sumners appeared to get the better of Zayak in the short program in 1984. Simply, Zayak's moves were superior to the two contenders; more polished and mastered than Witt's or Sumners'.

Zayak wasn't Midori Ito; Zayak didn't show much depletion in other elements like Ito. It appears that the kind of psychology against Zayak was beyond tolerance; it was too biased.

The higher score for Witt or Sumners in the short program competition could not be justified in this case, even in the old system.

The message was clear: the ISU wanted to have skaters like Sumners or Witt. Zayak was seen as a typical jumper who made the most of their physical advantage, "unfairly", which means their jumping ability had to be downgraded, rather than fully appreciated.

Rosalynn Sumners in 1984

Katarina Witt wasn't a true winner

Here Rosalynn Sumners pulled out a show of her own. I don't think Witt's free skating was necessarily better than Sumners.

Regardless of how many times Sumners popped her planned triples or how more definitive Sumners' moves were than Witt's, it's hard to win the case for Witt.

But considering that the race between Witt and Sumners was so close, and Zayak was put down systematically and institutionally, the 1984 Olympic win by Katarina Witt was also hard to be substantiated.

For all fairness and sensibility in the sport competition, Witt wasn't the true winner of the game. Rather Witt was an institutionally voted, agenda-driven champion at that time.

Rosalynn Sumners in 1984

I didn't find much advantage in Sumners' performance compared to Witt's.

Sumners appeared tight and nervous, which slowed her significantly down, and her moves were much impeded.

In comparison with Witt's short program, Sumners' wasn't necessarily better. Sumners failed to distinguish herself from Witt's powerful yet blunt skating by her agility and definitive moves.

I think if Sumners was the usual Sumners we knew in the short program, she could have won the title very easily, because apparently the judge were decided to choose between Sumners and Witt after all.

Zayak was institutionally disqualified before the game started.

Based on the footage above, who do you think is the real winner?

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      3 years ago

      I think that the best skater at 1984 Olympics was Tiffany Chinn. Her long program is one of the best I've ever seen. I think both Rosalyn Sumners and Katarina Witt were over rated.


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