Figure skating competition does not usually include dramatic confrontations, but these Games promise two of them. In women's singles, Debi Thomas of the U.S. and Katarina Witt (at left) of East Germany will be vying for the gold. They are two steely competitors who have each taken the other's world championship away once. Witt, the '84 Olympic gold medalist and the favorite in Calgary, defeated Thomas the last time they faced each other, at the '87 worlds in Cincinnati, but now Thomas is in the best shape of her life. Look for an upset if Thomas can take at least a three-place lead over Witt in the compulsory figures, which is Witt's weakest suit. In a nice bit of coincidence, both of the women have chosen to skate their four-minute freestyle programs to music from Carmen. They have slightly different interpretations, however, which Thomas hopes will prove prophetic. "Katarina dies at the end of hers and I don't," she says. The battle for the bronze will be among the U.S.'s Caryn Kadavy, former U.S. champion Jill Trenary and Canada's Elizabeth Manley.
The men's competition should be memorable. This is one gold medal that the judges might wish to divide in two. When the two Brians—Canada's Orser and the U.S.'s Boitano—are on, they are in a class by themselves, although you would never confuse their styles. Orser is small, quick and spectacular. Boitano is long, seamless and elegant. Both can jump to the moon. Orser is the defending world champion and will be skating before a partisan crowd. But he will also be under intense pressure to become the first Canadian man to win the Olympic figure skating gold. How he copes with it will determine the outcome.
In the pairs, the Soviet Union's Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov are unequaled. They'll skate away with the gold, and Gordeeva will win every heart in Calgary. The silver medal is up for grabs because of a foot injury to Elena Valova, who with partner Oleg Vasiliev took the gold medal in '84 for the U.S.S.R. Look for fellow Soviets Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov to fill the void, edging out America's top pair of Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard, whose trademark move, the swoop, will bring gasps from the audience as he swings her face just inches from the ice.
The ice dancing will also belong to the Soviets. Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin should win without a challenge.