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1980 Worlds: Fratianne, Potzsch, Lurz, and Allen

Updated on April 26, 2017

1980 Worlds ladies competitions

Dagmar Lurz in 1980

Dagmar Lurz in 1980

Anett Potzsch in 1980

In this competition Annet Potzsch won gold as Linda Fratianne and Dagmar Lurz claimed silver and bronze respectively.Many, however, thought Fratianne was robbed. Though some ascribed Fratianne's defeat to pro-Soviet judges, it had more to do with the old system, I think. Fratianne was never behind in free skating and short program; her compulsories held her down.If you look at how Fratianne actually skated in comparison with her contemporaries, then you will easily understand why people at the time thought it's unfairly judged. On one hand, it's her misfortune that her time was still subject to compulsories although its weight was quite reduced. But in today's perspective, Fratianne could never have suffered defeat in her skating in the 1980 Olympics.

The 1980 Worlds was a special event. It was still close enough to the era of 1970s when the legends had once ruled, and at the same time, skaters stacked up triple jumps in their arsenals.Here, legendary Linda Fratianne and Denise Biellmann clashed head on, and It was a fierce battle between the two great skaters with others who also fought for their share of glory. In the end, Biellmann eclipsed the waning Linda Fratianne on record, and came out victorious in free program. Biellmann however didn't necessarily defeat Fratianne. In all appearances Fratianne had the upper hand. That indicates one important thing. Aside from the fact that judging system was then different from today, figure skating judging itself at the time was in the uncharted territory. It's like in some degree Biellmann was hailed as a heroine to lead to the ideal of the sport. Although Fratianne wasn't categorically like Midori Ito, she wasn't Peggy Fleming either. In a larger picture, Fratianne was viewed as a jumper rather than an all rounded skater, and also stylistically contrasted with Biellmann whose signature spin electrified the audience and judges. So it is reasonable to think that judges at the time favored Biellmann in that context. Everything in the 1980 Olympics was legitimate but in terms of definition of figure skating that is now considered complete, Linda Fratianne was never defeated. Simply the system at the time and understanding of the sport were not good enough to fully appreciate one of greatest skaters of all time. It was 35 years ago, but Fratianne's skating was still mesmerizing to look upon. The more you watch those old performances, the more you feel depressed at the current state of figure skating in which the sport became a tool of international politics and fraud.

Dagmar Lurz won silver here. Dagmar Lurz was a German figure skater, born in 1959. Lurz was the bronze medalist in the 1980 Olympics, and silver medalist in the 1980 Worlds, and four time European silver medalist in 1977 through 1980. Like Pötzsch, Lurz was also a competitive skater in her time, able to land triple salchow and triple loop and known for her strong compulsory figures, usually behind Poetzsch.

Potzsch was a very competitive skater at the time who kept Fratianne from claiming the Olympic title. Her skating style was typically athletic, but with quite a few features of power skating: her jumps were often powerfully landed with good speed. In other words she knew how to use momentum to manage jumps, which gave her a good distance. Her double axels were simply magnificent at times, strong and accurate. Though the general quality of Potzsch's jumps might lack of sophistication in some degree, her jumping ability was something admirable in today's standard. It was Annet Potzsch that shattered Fratianne's dream to extend Hamill's legacy to her time, and remained her biggest rival. However, in comparison with Linda Fratianne, accurately speaking, Potzsch wasn't potent enough to threaten Fratianne.

Fratinanne skated here fittingly to her reputation. If today's standards apply, Linda Fratianne would never be beaten by any of her contemporaries. Fratianne was weak in line and extensions, and also less polished and less masterful in her bodily control compared to her predecessors. However, compared to her contemporaries, Fratianne's skating level topped the rest by and large.

Linda Fratianne ruled the post Hamill in 1976 through 1980. Fratianne's dream to continue American legacy shattered when she settled for silver after Annet Potzsch in the 1980 Olympics. But many believe Fratianne actually beat her rival. Coincidentally the winning margin of that old system was too small: 188.30 to 189 to Annet Potzsch who took the gold. Without compulsories that held her down, Fratianne could have easily won the game. But the real surprise of the 1980 Olympics was that in free program, Biellmann beat Fratianne, although overall she placed fourth. For the reigning World Champion Fratianne, that was a shocking development as a matter of fact, because while Linda Fratianne ruled the post Hamill, she never lost free skating, which marked the beginning of Biellann's legacy.

Linda Fratianne in 1980

Denise Biellmann in 1980

What do you think is the greatest merit of Potzsch's skating above?

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

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Lisa-Marie Allen was born in 1960, and won gold in 1978 at Skate Canada. In 1979, she won gold at the inaugural Skate America and in the 1980 Olympics, Allen placed fifth overall. More importantly Allen was a three-time silver medalist and a bronze in U.S. National. Allen didn't have any Worlds or Olympic title but with Linda Fratianne, Lisa-Marie Allen was a leading U.S. figure skater in the post Hamill. Although Allen was competitively weaker than Fratianne, she was a skater whom Peggy Fleming could have approved for her successor in style. As conventionally accepted today or even in the past, it was a natural way of thinking to see figure skating in a binary frame: athleticism and artistry. Although it is a bit ambiguous or often misleading to say artistry as opposed to athleticism, let us for now just follow the convention for the sake of convenience. Basically, Fleming's skating was balance and integration of the two quintessentially conflicting parts. But for those who were unable to reach Fleming's standards, Lynn's revolution became a good excuse for further exploitation of athleticism on jump. For some, triple jump was a diamond mine. If Lynn with her aesthetics showed the world that compulsories discipline exist to serve free skating, why couldn't jumpers aspire to have their share in the newly established ideology of the sport? But ironically, Lynn's revolution was Fleming's victory, because Lynn's skating was in fact the strongest proof as well as the essence of Fleming's vision. In addition, Hamill's power skating that kept intact the legacy of both Lynn and Fleming also helped Fleming further push her case. Interestingly enough, the figure skating revolution in the 1970s was a chain of events that build and consolidate the boundary of the sport within Fleming's vision rooted in the "classic" ideal.

In other words, Lynn's revolution - that changed the format of the sport - and her ethereal ideal of pure aesthetics, didn't denounce anything Peggy Fleming achieved, but rather reinforced it. Hamill idolized Janet Lynn like any female skaters at the time, and looked up to Peggy Fleming. Into her skating coalesced Fleming's vision and power skating. With these two legendary skaters upon her heels, Fleming's quest was far from being over. There are more dissenters than followers, however. It's because Lynn's revolution opened the door for endless possibility. That means Fleming's vision, though in essence endorsed by Lynn, is exposed to challenges from skaters who hope to find their own share in that uncharted territory or even have ambition to lead another revolution, if possible. At the same time, as ladies figure skating officially entered into a triple era, inevitably Linda Fratianne was seen as the leading disciple of Fleming. But Linda Fratianne wasn't exactly like Fleming, to be accurate. If Hamill added power skating to Fleming's ideal, Fratianne was more like jumper. As later shown in Fleming's disapproval on Elaine Zayak, Fleming wouldn't have given a full support for Fratianne, a pioneer of triple jumps. To Fleming eyes, perhaps Lisa- Marie Allen could have been a more suitable candidate to inherit her legacy. But Lisa- Marie Allen, though one of the elite skaters in her time, was never as competitive as Fratianne, nor ever topped the Worlds or Olympics. Lisa-Marie Allen was the best rendition of legends in her time. The fall in the middle of the program was such a devastating mistake,but apart from it, Allen was one of the most elegant skaters among her contemporaries. However, Allen's body control and technique were far inferior to her idols. You can tell how Allen admire Lynn and emulate her in the program above. But the history of ladies figure skating was becoming more and more like battlefields for two competing forces such as Fleming's disciples and a new legion of rebels. The new generation skaters, for example, Elaine Zayak, were challenging Fleming and her disciples with an agenda of technical development, the so called athleticism. Their athleticism was particularly characterized by jump as they drove competition to jumping contest.

Lo and behold! Before anyone noticed, athleticism was quickly taken as jump upgrade. While skaters experimented with jumps, few tried to figure out how to best adopt Lynn's modern figure skating with emphasis on free skating. It wasn't like the ISU changed the format because it understood the entire picture of Modern Figure Skating in relation with Classic Figure Skating. Even when the ISU finally decided to declare moratorium on compulsories, nothing was really etched in stone.


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