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Fratianne-Poetzsch: Clearing the Record
by Sonia Bianchetti
Although 25 years have gone by since the Olympic Games in Lake Placid in
1980, it seems that the debate about the results in the ladies' event
is still live among skating fans. As an official and ISU office
holder at that time I feel I have the duty to clarify and rectify some
recent statements on the matter, because they are not correct, are
misleading and do a disservice to the sport and the integrity of those
judges. I refer to the case of Anett Poetzsch and Linda Fratianne at the
1980 Olympic Games.
In a recent article by Doug Mattis, "Does this pig have wings" at www.figure-skating-judging-scandal.com,
it has been written that the first place of Anett Poetzsch "over the
glamorous and technically far superior Linda Fratianne was inexplicable
and was due to some 'clever judges' who had spread the marks between the
first and the third places in figures and hair-split the marks in the
short and the long programs." Well, I could not disagree more on this
matter, because Anett Poetzsch fully deserved the gold medal and, at least
that time, the judges cannot be blamed!
I will try to explain what happened in Lake Placid that year.
I attended those Olympics as the referee of the men's event. I lived
through the "scandal" put forth in the media by Linda's coach, Frank
Carroll, who alleged that her silver medal was due to a "deal" for an
exchange of favors between the judges of the men's and the ladies' panels,
set up by coach Carlo Fassi, to guarantee the gold medal to his student,
Robin Cousins, sacrificing Linda Fratianne.
Nothing could be more ungrounded, believe me. In fact, from what we saw,
it could have been just as likely that deals were made against Carlo
Based on the notes I had written on my private protocol during the events
(that I still have and can decipher!), I can re-affirm that Cousins fully
deserved to be the Olympic champion and Fratianne was not robbed of a
The panel of judges for the men.s event was composed of Alice Pinos (CAN),
Walburga Grimm (GDR), Tatiana Danilenko (URS), Ramona McIntyre (USA),
Alain Calmat (FRA), Britta Lindgren (SWE), Sally Stapleford (GBR), Elfride
Beyer (FRG) and Tsukasa Kimura (JPN).
Cousins (GBR) placed 4th in compulsory figures (3rd for me), behind Jan
Hoffmann (GDR), Charles Tickner and David Santee, both from the U.S.; in
the short program he was unanimously placed first. In free skating he was
awarded 1st place by all the judges except the American judge, Ramona
McIntyre, who placed Hoffmann ahead of Cousins, which was simply
ridiculous. Ramona was also the only judge in the panel who placed
Hoffmann first even in short and program and free combined, where he had
also 3rd and 4th places. Not even the judge from East Germany, Walburga
Grimm, or from the Soviet Union, Tatiana Danilenko, dared to do so!
Cousins' free program was outstanding, by far the best that night, and the
first place awarded by the American judge to Jan Hoffmann was considered
by some people to be some sort of a message to East Germany to get support
for Linda Fratianne.
Fratianne was the reigning world champion, and it was expected that she
would be the Olympic champion as well. At the 1979 World Championships she
was placed first overall by all the judges except the Russian and the East
German judge, who had put Anett Poetzsch in first place. This way of
"communicating" was not new in skating!
In the final, Cousins was placed first by all the judges except by the two
German judges (the one from the East, Walburga Grimm, and the one from the
West, Elfride Beyer), who placed him second, which in those years was
considered more or less "natural," and by Ramona McIntyre, who placed him
3rd with Hoffmann 1st and Tickner 2nd! Another message? Such a result was
considered definitely wrong as well as a clear case of national bias, for
which she received a sanction from the ISU.
As for Linda, I believe it was well known that her problem was the
compulsory figures, in which she was very weak. In 1979 at Worlds she
placed 3rd in figures and 1st both in short and free and won the title in
a very close competition with Anett Poetzsch.
At the Lake Placid Olympics, Linda placed 3rd in compulsory figures, 1st
in the short program but only 2nd in free skating, behind Denise
Biellmann, who performed an outstanding program. We could say that
Biellmann's free skating was the disturbing element that changed the
expected order after the results of 1979 Worlds. With the factored place
scoring system, Linda could not move up enough to win. Poetzsch was placed
1st overall by all the judges except the American judge, Charles Foster
(as I said before: "natural") and the Japanese judge, Kinuko Ueno.
Notably, the referee of the ladies. event was Ben Wright (USA) and the
panel of judges included only two judges from Eastern Europe: Ingrid Linke
(GDR) and Radovan Lipovscak (YUG). So no "bloc judging" this time, either.
I hope I was able to convince you that the results in Lake Placid were
correct, there were no dirty tricks, and the medal winners did deserve
their titles. Yes, Linda was a great freeskater. We can include her name
on the list of victims of the compulsory figures, together with Janet Lynn
and Toller Cranston. It is said that Linda was made to believe by her
coach that she had been robbed of the gold medal because of dishonest
judges. And this is hard for a competitor to accept. To blame the judges
for the results of their skaters is unfortunately rather common among the
coaches. If they only could consider the harm they are doing to the sport
and to these young kids who suddenly see all their dreams vanish because
of something which is beyond their control. Such an attitude can affect
all their future life.
Sympathies to Linda Fratianne, who was indeed a marvelous skater.