The tears of joy were a long time coming. Last Thursday night at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum, Brian Orser from Orillia, Ont., mounted the victor’s podium at the annual World Figure Skating Championship. As the Maple Leaf flag rose above the crowd to the sound of O Canada, a single tear fell on the left cheek of the five-foot, six-inch skater. After three consecutive second-place finishes at the world championships and a silver medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics, Orser, 25,
stood proud, jubilant and victorious. He had defeated American Brian Boitano, the reigning champion, and Soviet Alexandr Fadeev, the 1985 winner. “Unbelievable,” said Orser later. “It finally happened.”
Triumph: With Calgary hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, this year’s world championships are crucial tests for both the athletes and the nations they represent (page 38). But Orser is the first Canadian to capture a world-championship medal this year. To date, the country’s athletes have been shut out of medals in alpine skiing, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, biathlon, luge, bobsleigh and speed skating. One of the
few bright spots occurred on March 7 in Falun, Sweden, when Quebec crosscountry skier Pierre Harvey, 29, won a 30-km World Cup race. Harvey’s victory was Canada’s first in international cross-country competition.
Orser’s triumph ended a 24-year drought for Canadian men at the world championships. The last to capture a gold was Donald McPherson of Windsor, Ont., in 1963. Orser had been expected to win last year in Geneva, but a few seconds into his free-skating
routine, he fell while attempting a triple Axel; he finished second.
Edge: Despite those disappointments, Orser arrived in Cincinnati full of confidence last week. “I walked into the arena as if I owned the place,” he said. He finished third in the compulsory figures, his best performance to date. A day later he won the twominute, short free-skating competition—but still trailed rivals Fadeev and Boitano. Orser skated first on March 12 in the 4 xk -minute finale, then nervously watched as Fadeev fell while performing a triple Axel and Boitano landed off balance after attempting the first-ever quadruple toe loop in the world championships. But it was Orser’s flawless performance, rather than his opponents’ mistakes, that made the difference. Seven of nine judges placed him first.
Orser entered this year’s competition better prepared than ever. He worked hard on his compulsory figures and spent hours with York University sports psychologist Peter Jensen, searching for the elusive edge required to become a champion. Now Orser is looking forward to the Calgary Olympics. “I can savor this for a little while, but in 11 months we’re right back at it,” he said. And with last week’s victory, Canada’s hopes for Olympic gold could rest almost entirely on Orser’s slender shoulders.
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