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 4 of the ten-part series reflects on the 1978 world championships in Ottawa.
As the curtain dropped on the 1972 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Calgary, Canada wouldn’t have to wait long before the event made a return visit.
Just six years after the Calgary championships, figure skating’s marquee event returned to Canadian soil in 1978 when Ottawa welcomed the world to the Civic Centre from March 1-6. It was the first time ever that the world championships came to Canada in a non-Olympic year.
A bright-eyed young skater by the name of Elizabeth Manley, who would go on to win the heart of a nation at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, volunteered as a flower retriever in Ottawa.
In the men’s competition, despite not winning the school figures, short program or long program, American Charlie Tickner still managed to win the gold medal, narrowly edging out East Germany’s Jan Hoffmann, who won the short program. Great Britain’s Robin Cousins won the free program to take bronze.
Canadian champion Brian Pockar, who was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame in 2018, finished in 11th spot, one spot ahead of Scott Hamilton.
Despite finishing in 12th spot, Vern Taylor of Canada stole some of the spotlight when he became the first skater to land a triple Axel in competition.
Like Tickner, East Germany’s Anett Pötzsch captured ladies’ gold despite not winning the short or long program. The 17-year-old held off Linda Fratianne of the United States, with Susanna Driano of Italy finishing in third spot.
Heather Kemkaran, the 18-year-old national champion, was the top Canadian, finishing in 12th spot.
In the pairs event, Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev won their sixth consecutive world title in Ottawa. The Olympics champions in 1976 and 1980, the duo dominated pairs skating internationally since teaming up for the 1973 season. The world title in Ottawa marked the tenth straight for Rodnina, who won four straight with Alexei Ulanov from 1968-69 to 1971-72.
Soviet skaters finished on the top two steps of the ice dance podium, as Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov defeated compatriots and defending world champions Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Minenkov. Newly-minted Canadian champions Lorna Wighton and John Dowding finished in sixth spot.
A young dance team from the UK also made their worlds debut in Ottawa, and it didn’t take long for Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean to catch the eye of coach Betty Callaway.
“They (Torvill and Dean) were the third British team at the time, but I remember saying to Christin (Regocey)’They could be very interesting,” said Callaway, who would go on to coach the legendary ice dance team.
“They were already very good at the time and I knew there were good possibilities.”
Six years later, the 1984 world championships returned to Ottawa and Torvill and Dean were the most dominant ice dance team on the planet.
All-event 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.