Worlds Rewind: Ottawa 1984

As the countdown to the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020 in Montreal, Quebec continues, we look back at previous world championships staged in Canada. Part 5 of the ten-part series reflects on the 1984 world championships in Ottawa.

For Canadian pair legends Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, it was a world title that almost wasn’t.

As the 1984 ISU World Figure Skating Championships returned to Ottawa from March 20-25 – just six years after the nation’s capital hosted the 1978 edition of the event – Underhill and Martini, coming off a disappointing seventh place showing at the Sarajevo Olympic Winter Games weeks earlier, considered taking a pass on the home world championships.

“We came home very disappointed from the Olympics, very down,” admitted Martini at the time. “I don’t think anyone can appreciate how far we’ve come in the past two weeks. We came very close to not coming here at all.”

The decision to compete ended up being a wise one.

Energized by a rousing pro-Canadian crowd of more than 10,000 at the Ottawa Civic Centre, Underhill and Martini trailed Olympic and defending world champions Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev after the short program but delivered a flawless long program to dethrone the Soviet Union team and become the first Canadians to win a world championship since Karen Magnussen captured the women’s crown in 1973.

“After Sarajevo, skating wasn’t fun anymore, added Underhill. “We went to the rink because we had to, because people here had paid money to see us. But we didn’t want to.”

In the men’s competition, the growing rivalry between American Scott Hamilton and Canadian Brian Orser continued to evolve. Coming off a gold medal in Sarajevo – where Orser won silver – Hamilton captured his fourth straight world championship, with Orser once stepping up to the second step on the podium.

Riding a wave of momentum from the Sarajevo Olympics, the legendary British ice dance tandem of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean made sure the ice dance competition in Ottawa was a mere formality. Their dazzling Boléro free dance, which earned unprecedented perfect 6.0 scores for artistic impression from all nine judges in Sarajevo, is widely regarded as one of the most iconic in figure skating history, and Torvill and Dean did not disappoint in Ottawa as they cruised to their fourth straight world title. Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall, whose career would be highlighted by seven Canadian titles, three world bronze medals and an Olympic bronze, placed sixth in Ottawa.

Katarina Witt of East Germany, fresh off a gold medal performance in Sarajevo, won her first of four ladies’ world titles, with Anna Kondrashova of the Soviet Union earning silver and American Elaine Zayak taking home bronze. Kay Thomson was the top Canadian, finishing in fifth.
Canada would next host the world championships in 1990, when Halifax welcomed the world to the Maritimes.

Day tickets for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships ® 2020  are on sale now and can be purchased online at montreal2020.com, by phone at 1-855-310-2525 or in person at the Centre Bell Box Office.

1984 WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDALLISTS

DISCIPLINE GOLD SILVER BRONZE
Men Scott Hamilton Brian Orser Alexander Fadeev
Ladies Katarina Witt Anna Kondrashova Elaine Zayak
Pair skating Barbara Underhill / Paul Martini Elena Valova / Oleg Vasiliev Sabine Baeß / Tassilo Thierbach
Ice dancing Jayne Torvill / Christopher Dean Natalia Bestemianova / Andrei Bukin Judy Blumberg / Michael Seibert