Enough of the judges approved that the performance pulled Bowman up to third overall. But it was apparent to all who have watched Bowman over the past few years that unlike Petrenko and Browning he has stopped growing as a skater and is now on a level below those two, and falling fast. "It's also a feather in a coach's cap to medal at the worlds," Carroll said, "but would it have been better for Christopher to finish fourth and realize that he cannot do this kind of thing? Maybe. It's not my idea of what makes a world champion."
Tenacity. That is one of the things that makes a world champion, and Trenary, a three-time U.S. champion, has that quality in spades. She has stuck it out through good times and bad, has had unwanted labels hung on her, has performed in the shadows of the greats and the darlings, and yet has never given up on herself.
The last 12 months have been the hardest. Trenary went to the 1989 worlds in Paris as the Great Classical Hope. Coached by Carlo Fassi—which led to inevitable comparisons to his other champions, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill—Trenary was asked to carry the banner of figure skating's traditionalists, who were fearful that bounding little 14-year-old gymnasts were taking over the sport. The traditionalists wanted a lovely, well-rounded skater like Trenary to somehow bridge the gap between the theatrical but technically limited Katarina Witt and Japan's Midori Ito, who jumps around the rink like a porpoise. But the great showdown of 1989 never occurred, as Trenary skated poorly, finishing third after failing to try a number of her triple jumps.
It wasn't the first time that that sort of thing had happened, and people began writing her off. "The critics said a lot of things about me cracking under pressure," Trenary says. "I'm human and it hurts. But I've grown. I've learned to take the bad with the good. When I sat down last year to make a list of pros and cons about whether to turn professional, the main reason I stayed as an amateur was I knew I had a performance like the one I skated this year at nationals still in me. I wanted to get it out."
Trenary's long program at the U.S. championships was fabulous—elegant, athletic, stylish, the best she has skated in her life. Still, she arrived at Halifax a prohibitive underdog, even in her own mind. "It wasn't like I wasn't trying to win," Trenary said after she finished first in the compulsories and Ito 10th. "But I honest to god came here thinking that Midori was so far superior that this [Trenary's apparently insurmountable lead] is kind of a surprise to me."
Trenary, who has always skated her figures well, won what will someday be remembered as history's final ladies' compulsories, while Ito very nearly stopped midway through a loop that looked like an aerial view of a Santa Fe train yard. Trenary's other primary challengers, Kristi Yamaguchi of Fremont, Calif., and European champion Evelyn Grossmann of East Germany, were ninth and 12th, respectively. It was a cushion almost too big to believe.
Certainly it was too big to enjoy, and Trenary, who is pretty tightly strung to begin with, lay in bed the night before her short program thinking all sorts of bad thoughts. Unfortunately, that was also the night that the men's portion of the competition concluded, and skating officials had put Bowman in the hotel room next to Trenary. All night long people kept hammering on Bowman's door, trying to find the party that perpetually surrounds skating's irrepressible bad boy. Bowman, in fact, did not get back to his room until 6 a.m. He had been out all night with the Russians. But the damage was done. Trenary woke up in tears, having got three hours of sleep.
None of which would have been significant had Trenary not finished fifth in the short program. She doubled her triple toe-double toe combination, a jump she had been nailing in practice all week, and she was again accused of cracking under pressure. Meanwhile, Ito, who won the short program, was back in the hunt.
Ito needed help, though. Even if she were to score straight perfect 6.0's in Saturday's long program—and this is a flaw in the way figure skating is scored—she would still need to beat Trenary by two places in the free skating. Someone had to get in between them for Ito to win.
The effervescent Ito did squeeze three perfect 6.0's from the judges for technical merit, landing the best triple Axel—men's or women's—that was performed all week, a monumental triple Lutz and a triple toe-triple toe combination that nearly gyrated her through the end-boards. The crowd, captivated and charmed by the sheer joy of skating that Ito transmits, was on its feet before she had stopped her final spin.