REVISITING THE 80s
U.S. figure skating has been blessed with many talented ladies over the decades and during the 1980s, no two skaters stood out more than Elaine Zayak and Rosalynn Sumners.
Even as a junior, Zayak was a pioneer in the sport. With a natural aptitude for jumping, she would always pepper her routines with difficult elements. Often including up to six or seven triple jumps in the one program, Time magazine referred to her in 1981 as a “human buzz saw.”
After winning the Worlds in 1982, her career suddenly slipped into flux. An ankle injury the following year prevented Zayak from defending her title. Despite working her way back to full strength in time for the Olympics, a pair of outstanding performances at the 1984 Games went relatively unnoticed by the judges.
A decade later to the surprise of everyone, Elaine returned to the sport. Thanks to a petition from Brian Boitano asking the International Skating Union to allow professionals to reinstate, Zayak took advantage of this one-time opportunity.
At the 1994 Olympic trials in Detroit, Michigan, Zayak arrived fit and focused. She skated the short program of her life, earning a standing ovation from the capacity crowd. Though it was never her intention to make the team, Zayak didn't care. Despite finishing a close fourth, her only goal that day was to prove she could compete for the sheer joy of skating.
Elaine Zayak - Short Program
1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Rosalynn Sumners could not have been a more different skater from Zayak. More Peggy Fleming to Zayak's Dorothy Hamill, she was known primarily for her balletic grace and strong musical sense.
At the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, Sumners held it together to take the title ahead of West Germany's Claudia Leistner and Elena Vodorezova from the Soviet Union. The following year, Sumners fell victim to intense media pressure, missing Olympic gold by one judge to East Germany's athletic Katarina Witt.
Turning pro after the Games, Sumners almost gave up the sport entirely. Disillusioned by her loss and the grind of touring, she stepped away. Eventually returning refreshed and renewed, Sumners was a different skater. As this stunning routine from the 1986 World Professional Championships shows, her newfound inspiration became the key to a brilliant professional career with Stars On Ice, which lasted 13 years.
Rosalynn Sumners - Technical Program
1986 World Professional Figure Skating Championships
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