Monday, July 13, 2009

Inside the Mens' "Curse" of Winning Worlds Gold Just Before the Olympics

You may have heard, as I did, that winning the Mens’ division at Worlds the year before an Olympics is considered the kiss of death as far as Olympic gold is concerned.

So I did a little investigating…and took a look at all the pre-Olympic male gold medalists from 1951 onward (because really, do we need to count anyone before Dick Button?). That’s a total of 15 different medalists we’re talking about. And if you were to look at the 1950s alone, you’d say “what kiss of death??”… for SO dominant was Button in the early 50s, Hayes Allen Jenkins in the mid-50s, and David Jenkins in the late 50s, no other gold medal hopefuls needed apply.

After that decade, well…the number of follow-throughs from pre-Olympic gold to actual Olympic gold drop way down to just TWO of the twelve: Ondrej Nepela of Czechoslovakia, who won the first of three Worlds in 1971 (plus Olympic gold in ’72) … and, as you might’ve guessed/known, Scott Hamilton won the third of four Worlds in 1983 on his way to Olympic gold one year later. As for the other ten…?

+ Four of them (Orser in ‘87, Stojko in ‘97, Plushenko in ‘01, Lambiel in ‘05) did the infamous “settle for silver”.
+ Another four (Danzer in ’67, Volkov in ’75, Browning in ’91, and—sorry—Browning again in ’93) finished completely off the podium in 4th, 5th, and in one case (sorry again, Kurt), 6th.
+ One of them (Donald McPherson, in ’63) retired prior to the ’64 Games in Innsbruck. I believe there’s a brief article about him in the current issue of International Figure Skating… check the very back of the magazine…
+ And one of them (Vladmir Kovalev, in ’79) withdrew from the ’80 Lake Placid Games altogether.

So what does all this mean for Evan Lysacek? Aside from motivation to work harder than ever, and take absolutely nothing for granted… probably not as much as one might think. Streaks like the one paved by the past 3 Olympic silver medalists are made to be broken. Whether Lysacek breaks it towards bronze, or gold, or no medal at all… anyone’s guess, no matter what history tells us.

Here’s his recent World Team Trophy FS as the Clip of the Day

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