At the age of 13, Tracey Wainman became the youngest ever Canadian champion when she won the senior title at the 1981 nationals in Halifax, a record that still stands. It was an early-career peak, and her most impressive competition: she won the figures, short and free, with near flawless skates. In the short program, to Kalinka, her double axels and combination were perfect, and in the long program, she pulled off two perfect triple salchows — the first time she had landed them in competition that season, and the first time she had done two triples in one program. She landed two huge double axels, but popped another — perhaps the first indication of trouble to come with that jump — and omitted a fourth at the end, after a freak fall leading up to it while she was simply stroking. She said afterwards she was overexcited, and the program certainly had sparkle, as well as her trademark speed, sense of command, and a growing maturity and sophistication: as Debbi Wilkes said, “She was an old soul”, but in a 13-year-old body.
In the interview afterwards, Debbi Wilkes commented that Wainman had been missing the triple salchows in practice and warmup, and you could sense Wainman’s uneasiness. She explained that she had been suffering from a cold. When Wilkes asked her about how her triple toe loops were progressing, Wainman said she was landing them “off and on”, and that the triple loop was coming, but that it was just “bad timing” and “the wrong time”. Looking back, you could sense how much pressure she was under to get those jumps and the frustration and anxiety she must have felt when the eyes of the skating world were scrutinising her every move.
After the Canadians, Wainman appeared in a documentary news program, W5. The footage shows her landing three double axels in a row, and a triple salchow-double loop combination. But in a newspaper article from the period you could sense trouble looming and tension in the air. The reporter visited the Cricket Club to watch her practise and remarked that Wainman was having trouble with a jump in her preparation for the 1981 Worlds, and was stopping her program and starting again. He noted that she fell on a triple salchow, and Burka told her to slow down the entrance. In the article, he also described how Burka blew up at another reporter. Burka complained that Wainman hadn’t managed to fit in one decent day of training after the nationals, and that her body couldn’t cope with the pressure and attention. Wainman herself admits she felt self-conscious when reporters were around because if she fell, it looked bad.
Here are her short and long programs from 1981 Canadians, and a CTV documentary, and a link to an article from the Montreal Gazette