Wainman was the favourite going into the competition, as she was by then something of a Canadian superstar. She appeared on the cover of Broadcast Week magazine on the weekend of the competition, and Beverley Smith of the Globe and Mail wrote she “is being pointed at a world medal” after winning two international competitions this year. And she had a realistic chance, given the poor performances at the 1982 Worlds in Cophenhagen, Denmark. Alas, it was not to be.
Wainman lost her title to Kay Thomson, a consistent but unexciting skater who was known for her excellent spins. Elizabeth Manley won the silver medal with some superlative free skating — she won both short and long programs, and her flawless long included a triple toe and salchow. Wainman flamed out spectacularly. She started off by winning the figures, but fell ill, and skated the short program while suffering from the stomach flu. She appeared deathly pale, and failed to smile: it looked as if she wasn’t even intending to attempt her double axel, just doing a wide-open single. She finished 4th in the short, dropping to second overall. In the long program, she appeared to be back to her perky, smiley self: she started brilliantly with a double axel and Johnny Esaw said, “This is the Tracey we know!” He spoke too soon though. She went on to fall on a triple salchow, a double axel (in a painful ‘waxel’-style fall) and again on a second triple salchow. Nearing the end of her program, she had very little technical content to show, so, in possibly the bravest move of her career, she threw in two double axels in a row, with only seconds to spare. It was particularly gutsy, considering this jump was her nemesis, and that she had already fallen three times. Her mother later said that the fact that she could pull two double axels out of a hat when she needed to proved that her problem with that jump was psychological, and had nothing to do with a growth spurt. Wainman said she added the second one “to prove that I could do it”. She also noted that she had been training well leading up to Nationals, and thought that her bad long program was due to fatigue following her illness.
After finishing 3rd, Wainman was left off the World team. It was a shocking turn of events. In hindsight, it isn’t surprising: Manley was a superb jumper and thoroughly deserved to go to the Worlds, and Thomson had won fair and square, even though she didn’t attempt any triples. But at the time Wainman was a bit of a rock star in the skating world, deemed a future world champion, and seemed to be adored by judges and fans alike. She cried behind a curtain before the medal ceremony and said “I’ll have to fight that much harder to get my title back”. She later admitted she found it very hard to have to stay at home and watch Worlds on TV, after training hard for it, and then suddenly finding her season was over prematurely.
I saw her perform once more that season, at a Bursary Awards exhibition that was televised. She skated to Ben by Michael Jackson and landed a double axel. Everyone was hoping she was on the verge of a comeback — she had been selected to appear at St Ivel and Ennia Challenge Cup in the fall — but she was about to enter a very dark period.
Here’s her LP: