"Along with etiquette, a pecking order is established that is usually determined by ranking. Practice sessions are an opportunity for displays of competitive one-upmanship that can be more exciting to watch than the event itself. I remember seeing a session in the mid-eighties when Brian Boitano, an American, Brian Orser, a Canadian, and Joseph Sabovcik, a Czech, flew around the ice challenging each other to land a quadruple jump. With the testosterone pumping, they, along with everyone in the stands, were having great fun."
The Famous Barb Underhill – Skates story
"Barb (Underhill) and Paul (Martini) were expected to win a medal at Sarajevo, and they had a realistic shot at gold. But Barb’s injured ankle had kept them out of competition that season and their practices were going poorly. The night before their short program, I held a sobbing Barb’s hand while a doctor injected cortisone into her foot. During her performance the next day, a fluke fall on a relatively simple spin- caused not by the injury but by a split-second loss of concentration—knocked them out of contention.
With the World Championships a month away, neither Louis nor I was sure whether Barb and Paul would make it. The disaster at Olympics had shattered their dreams and dealt a potentially fatal blow to their psyches. Even though pair skaters learn not to blame themselves or each other for their mishaps, it was impossible not to expect Paul to feel some resentment toward Barb, and for Barb not to blame herself. Their relationship had broken down to the point where they could barely speak to one another. They had experienced an emotional setback so severe that they had lost their confidence; suddenly they were wrestling with the most difficult question of their careers: to quit or face Worlds in Ottawa and try to redeem themselves. All Louis and I could do is be there for them every day, encouraging them and trying not to show our own sinking hopes.
A week before we were scheduled to depart for Worlds, just as the four of us were on the verge of canceling, Barb and Paul were sitting in the dressing room with Brian Orser. After listening to Barb complain, Brian said: “Well, why don’t you just try putting on your old skates?” When she did, it was as though she had set aside all her problems. That evening she and Paul cleanly skated their long program and Louis and I could see the old magic had miraculously returned. How much of their recovery was pure psychology? All we knew was that, whether or not they would win it, it was important for them to skate at Worlds."
(and everyone knows, they won gold!!!)
Back to Library