Early last week in Sarajevo, Valentine Piessev, a Soviet member of the International Skating Union's figure skating committee, lodged a bitter complaint with local Olympic officials: The pro-American crowds at the Zetra Ice Arena were just too demonstrative in their support of the U.S. figure skaters. Such shouting and stamping, waving of flags and unfurling of crude banners was distracting the other competitors, he said.
What was that again, Valentine? Repeat, please, and we'll try to read your lips because we just can't hear you in all this racket.
The XIV Winter Games are over now, and when the snow finally melts in downtown Sarajevo, the street cleaners will still be uncovering stolen hotel bed-sheets brightly painted with such things as STICK IT TO THEM, SCOTTY!
And that's exactly what Scott Hamilton did. The three-time world champion won a gold medal last Thursday with as much brio as he could muster under difficult circumstances. Then, on Saturday, Rosalynn Sumners skated beautifully and made off with the silver, while Katarina Witt of East Germany took the gold.
Earlier in the week, on Valentine's Day, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of Great Britain won the gold medal in ice dancing—as was expected—but Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert, the No. 1 U.S. ice dancers, four-time national champs and world bronze medalists, were euchred out of an Olympic medal in a game of musical snooker. No wonder everybody was yelling.
To the crowds intensely watching his every move, Hamilton appeared to be as ebullient as ever. "Life's just wonderful," he kept saying. But in private he confided to a friend, "Don't print this until it's all over, but this is gonna be tough. It's like I can't win here. Oh, I can win the gold medal, but I can't really win." What had happened was this: Hamilton had come down with an ear infection that affected his balance. He had visited a team doctor. "He gave me some legal throat spray," Hamilton said. "When the doc shined his little light into my ears, I sang him Can You Read My Mind?, a song from Superman. Remember it?"
What was really on Hamilton's mind, of course, was winning with style, and in the compulsory figures he was ranked first by all nine judges, painstakingly putting in the bank a big lead that would later pull him through. In second place was Jean-Christophe Simond of France, but he was no real threat. The man to beat was 22-year-old Brian Orser, the Canadian national champion, who was lurking back in seventh place with two events to go.
And, sure enough, Orser won the two-minute short program—"Justly so," said Hamilton, who hadn't lost one of those since 1982. The Canadian picked up six judges to Hamilton's three (you should have heard the crowd yowl over that one), and edged into fifth going into the free skating program. Easy striking distance.
Orser skated a knockout program that included a triple Axel, which Hamilton doesn't do in competition. In fact, Orser made five triple jumps of one sort or another, earning a score top-heavy with 5.9s. A few roses thrown for Orser still lay on the ice when Hamilton came out. He casually picked them up and tossed them over the rail.
Hamilton started off strongly enough. As always, his camel spin was so correct, so flat, that you could have balanced a tray of wine glasses on the small of his back and not spilled a drop. But then weird things began to happen. It was almost as if Hamilton were doing a Hamilton impression. He doubled out of one triple jump and his axis on the other jumps—heretofore upright, never tilted—fell off to one side or another. "I felt like I had a 10-pound weight around each ankle," he said later. Then he bob-bled a triple flip and triple Salchow. His coach, Don Laws, was a picture of calm despite the far from Hamiltonian performance. "What happened," Laws said later, "was just that, with the ear infection, Scott felt strange in the air, and it was simply a case of his motor reflexes taking over in a crisis."