At the age of 11, Wainman won the Novice Ladies Canadian title in 1979. Instead of graduating to the junior division, she and her coach Ellen Burka decided to leapfrog straight into Senior. Turning 12 in the spring, she won the Thornhill Summer Skate competition later that year, in Senior Ladies. If memory serves correct, she defeated Kay Thomson, her future arch rival, at that competition. I recall reading in the paper that she popped a triple salchow in her long program. In September 1979, she won a bronze medal at Vienna Cup, a Senior B international competition, and I recall reading again that she missed a triple salchow. The winner of that competition was Marina Ignatova of the USSR (who had come 3rd at the 1979 Russian nationals and the 1978 Moscow Skate) and Sonja Stanek of Austria was 2nd. In December 1979, Wainman won the Eastern Divisionals, the qualifying competition for Canadians; I believe that she defeated Kay Thomson at this event, although I remember reading that Thomson won the free skating. Thomson went on the next month to finish 2nd at the World Juniors to Rosalynn Sumners.
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Tracey Wainman was the undisputed star of the 1980 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Kitchener, Ontario. At the age of 12, she won a bronze medal at her first senior nationals, and her long program earned her a standing ovation. The CTV commentator Debbi Wilkes recalls how “grown men cried in the stands” watching her, and her co-host Johnny Esaw said: “the crowd is buzzing and buzzing and buzzing. Remember the name, remember the face, you’re going to see it one day on a World Championship Trophy.” Esaw clearly fell in love with her: back in the days before VCRs, CTV broadcast Wainman’s long program several times that week — a couple of times on the weekend and then later again during the week. I remember my whole family crowded around the TV in excitement; my sister and I were both low-level skaters at the Cricket Club, so to see one of our own make it big was a thrill.
Wainman placed 3rd in the figures, 7th in the short program, and 2nd in the long program, earning marks as high as 5.6. In the short program, she failed to complete the combination, turning a planned double axel-double loop into a single axel, but she landed a beautiful solo double axel at the end. In the long program, she landed one triple salchow and three double axels, electing not to attempt a triple toe loop and second triple salchow. She skated to a selection of music including excerpts from Khatchaturian’s Gayaneh Ballet, ending in the ultimate 1970s skating music, the Sabre Dance.
In a Weekend magazine article printed after the competition, the journalist wrote that Wainman had already mastered the triple salchow and triple toe loop and was training a triple loop, but had not yet landed one cleanly.
Such was the excitement following her long program that the CFSA elected to send Wainman, rather than the champion, Heather Kemkaren, to the 1980 World Championships in Dortmund, West Germany. The decision caused controversy, and fuelled a lot of resentment towards Wainman among other skaters who thought she was being given special treatment and was a flash-in-the-pan who should wait her turn. The CFSA saw Wainman as the future, and said “she will leave the judges talking”. They also wanted to ensure she competed before the ISU brought in a minimum age rule for the World Championships, which they were contemplating doing in 1981. Kemkaren saw the writing on the wall and decided to retire.
Here’s her LP:
The 1980 St Ivel competition in Richmond, London, was Wainman’s first competition after her sensational debut at the 1980 Worlds, and her first appearance on what is now known as the senior Grand Prix circuit. The expectations were huge, and there must have been a lot of pressure on Wainman to win, as the 13-year-old was the wunderkind du jour, and the field was not that tough. In the end, she finished second behind the American skater Sandy Lenz, the 1980 US bronze medalist who ranked 9th at the 1980 Olympics. Wainman actually placed first in the figures, a surprise result given she had been a lowly 21st at the Worlds in that portion of the event. But she couldn’t maintain her lead: in the short program, she had trouble with her nemesis, the double axel-double loop combination. She landed the first jump in such a way that she couldn’t complete the double loop, according to reports I read in Skating and Canadian Skater. And in the long program, “it was not her night”: the reports I read suggested she fell on both her triple salchow and triple toe loop attempts. If this is correct, I believe it marks the last time Wainman attempted a triple toe loop in competition. The report also said she was skating with a bleeding hand, after receiving a cut during the warm-up. Still, a silver at a prestigious international competition is a result, and all the more impressive when you are 13 years old.
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Wainman’s Skate Canada debut was also greatly anticipated. Canadian skating fans are very knowledgeable, and they were anxious to take a closer look at their budding superstar and monitor her progress since Dortmund. Her performance, if not sensational, was solid, early-season stuff. Wainman finished second to Elaine Zayak, the 15-year-old American jumping sensation, who was ranked 11th in the world and included seven triples in her long program. The bronze medalist was Austria’s Claudia Kristofics Binder, who was ranked 5th in the world. Wainman also finished ahead of Sandra Dubravcic of Yugoslavia, who had placed 12th in the Worlds, and the American Rosalynn Sumners, the then World Junior Champion who would go on to win the 1983 Worlds. Wainman finished 2nd in the figures, 5th in the short program and (I believe) 3rd in the long program for 2nd overall.
In her short program, she fell on the double-axel portion of her double axel-double loop combination. But her other double axel was beautiful. The CTV commentator Otto Jelinek remarked that she fell on the double axel in the combination because she was thinking about the double loop. In an interview afterwards, she said she would only attempt one triple in the long program, but would possibly do two, and she would attempt five double axels. In the end, she tried and fell on a triple salchow, but landed four beautiful double axels, including two in succession and one ending in a spiral. Debbi Wilkes remarked: “She’s really ticking off those double axels.” At the time, Wainman’s triples were not consistent enough to put into her program in great numbers, and the double axel was her go-to jump for boosting her technical marks.
Wilkes remarked that Wainman had been having trouble with the triple salchow in warmup and practice. Wainman in an interview afterwards said she had still expected to pull it off in the actual competition. She also said that her goal was to get more triples, and that she was working on a double loop-triple cherry combination for her short program. For whatever reason, she would never try a triple toe in competition again; I gather it was becoming more difficult for her around this time. Nonetheless, her long program was strong enough to gain a rousing response from the fans in Calgary; her performance was fast, energetic and vivacious. The trademark Wainman smile was out in full force. I recall that Rosalynn Sumners landed three or four triples in her long program and had relatively high marks, so I am deducing that she beat Wainman in the long program, even though she didn’t place on the podium.
Here’s her short program, followed by her long program below
In January 1981, Tracey Wainman defeated Kay Thomson and Elizabeth Manley to win the Eastern Divisionals, a qualifying competition for nationals, in Nepean, Ontario. She won the figures, short and long programs. The highlight was a clean short program, a first for Wainman, including a perfect double axel-double loop combination. In her long program, she fell on her opening triple salchow and doubled the second one. Reports don’t indicate how many double axels she completed, but at this stage she had four in her program. Manley won the bronze but reportedly landed a triple salchow and triple toe loop, and four double axels; reports say one judge gave her a higher technical mark than Wainman.
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