Scott Hamilton: The 5 most memorable Olympic figure skating falls

scott-hamilton Each day this week leading up to the opening of the Winter Olympics (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC), PopWatch on Ice presents a Top 5 list from Scott Hamilton, the 1984 men’s figure skating gold medalist who heads to Vancouver to call his sixth Games. Today’s topic: The 5 most memorable Olympic figure skating falls. Check out Hamilton’s picks after the jump (with video, to relive the pain), then offer your own.

1. Kurt Browning’s Short Program in Albertville 1992. The fall on the triple axel cost him any chance of winning the Gold. He came in as the reigning World Champion and left without a medal of any kind.

2. Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini in 1984. They looked unbeatable all week but ran into each other during a simple sit spin in the short program. They didn’t medal in Sarajevo, but came back to win the World Championships a month later.

3. Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner in 1980. Randy had a leg injury and got an injection to get some pain relief. The falls he took in the warm up for the short program broke the hearts of everyone in America. They had to withdraw from the competition moments before they were to compete for the Gold as reigning World Champions.

4. Laetitia Hubert from France fell MANY times in the 1992 Albertville Games in front of her home country. What made it memorable was the fact that Verne Lundquist and I were imitated by Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey the week before calling a program with many falls. Oooh! And now he’s going to Ooooh. And Ooooh! You get the idea. By her third fall, I stopped talking all together. All Verne could muster was, after her fourth fall, “Bless her heart she’s exhausted!!”. I laughed for an hour!

5. I guess looking back over all the Olympics I have called, the one fall that seemed so unfair was Michelle Kwan’s triple flip in Salt Lake 2002. It ended up being her last chance to win an Olympic Gold Medal. She just leaned a little forward on the takeoff and that lean amplified in the air.  It was that ONE mistake that cost her the only title she wasn’t ever able to achieve.

Your turn. Which fall(s) made your heart break?

Comments (93 total) Add your comment
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  • joss

    I don’t remember if she “fell” or not, but one that stands out to me is Katarina Witt vs. Debi Thomas, where Debi was poised to win it and then had a very underwhelming skate, finishing third. That was a pretty heartbreaking moment.

    • wil

      I REMEMBER THAT!!! I remember her looking soooo defeated.

    • Rachel

      Yes that should have been in Scott’s top 5. She fell more than once and had a great chance at winning gold. I actually cried for her. I loved Debi Thomas. =)

    • Lisa Simpson

      I seem to remember her falling on so many jumps that night. It was sad.

  • Babs

    Well, I dunno what the criteria were for “worst”, but I was surprised not to see included here the time Midori Ito fell right out of the rink.

    • Babs

      Oh wait, maybe that wasn’t at the Olympics. Ne’er mind.

    • Luann

      I don’t think it was the Olympics but that was the first fall that I thought of!!!

      • del

        LOL… I remember that, but technicly, she didn’t actually fall. She landed on her feet in the camera bay and ran right out and finished the program.

  • Razor

    I have never forgotten the Hubert programme, because at one point the commentator just trails off and says: “ooohhh no.” Never before and never since.

    • F

      This was an unforgettable skate. My sis and I used to mute it and watch it to the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.”

      • Bob Frapples


    • Vilya

      They called Hubert “the human Zamboni” after that program. LOL!

      • Sachin

        These are wonderful cards! The first reimnds me of my husband and I, only we would have fallen by now and turned in for cocoa by the fire. LOL! The splash of red in this second card really makes it pop out at you and I love that! Laura

    • Andy F

      “As Laetitia Hubert…whoops…tries to bring the competition to a close.”

    • Andy F

      “As Laetitia Hubert…whoops…tries to bring the competition to a close.” And the gold goes to Verne Lundquist.

      • boredinbklyn

        that whoops gets me everytime. Hilarious!

  • Jen

    OK, skating fans help me out — what about the pairs team in the 94 (or maybe 98) Olympics who skated to the Basic Instinct theme? She tripped and fell hard on her face and he carried her off the ice. I felt bad for them, but it was touching to see how he cared for his partner.

    • Oh Palin!

      Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer! That was heartbreaking!

      • Pokey

        We were watching the Canadian broadcast when Mandy WOtzel fell..and as she lay motionless on the ice…one of the Canadian commentators said..very matter-of-factly..”I don’t think she can breathe”…! And no one was rushing out there to administer aid or help her…it was bizarre..!

    • Em

      Yes, this! My thoughts exactly. I think maybe Scott is deliberately excluding actual injuries?

  • shawshank

    I remember an Olympics where the pair or ice dancing duo were gliding along, and the girl slipped and fell smack on her chin.

    • Elliott

      I remember that pair also they were German and skating to music from Basic Instinct but I can’t for the life of me remember their names. I am surprised that fall was not on the list, it was awful

  • Matt M

    The Hubert falls from ’92 is one my family still talks about to this day. We refer to her as the human zamboni.

    The other fall I remember well (and I’m not sure exactly when this happened) is when Todd Eldredge fell during warm-ups and separated his shoulder, only to have it popped back into place and skate his program a few minutes later. The camera showed him just skating along normally, then he suddenly disappeared from view as he fell, which was rather funny to those I know who have no problem laughing at the expense of others.

  • Broadway Baby

    Popwatch – On Ice. Love it.

  • rm

    Kurt’s fall still breaks my heart…

    • Sheila

      Yes. Oddly, when I saw the title of this, that was the ONLY fall I could think of (though of course Debi Thomas’s should be right up there, as well).

      • jj

        Nerves got to Debi. Hard to stand up to the luminous Witt! I felt so bad for her! I’m sure we all wanted to go out there, hold her hand, look her in the eye, and give her some platitude like ‘you can DO this!’ If life were only that simple…

  • Keira

    I agree on Scott’s top three, but I’d add Mandy Wotzel’s fall in Lillehammer when she tripped and went right down on her ribs because her partner Ingo Steuer was holding her hands and she couldn’t brace herself. Also Dan Zhang’s fall on the throw quad in 2006.

    • Jennifer

      And what makes Kurt’s fall in Albertville even worse was that a fall (in a combination that counted as two missed jumps) in the short program in Nagano in 1994 which cost him a medal yet again. Although I did love his comment when asked about it during the post-skate interview: “Kurt fall down, go boom.”

  • Jenn

    Michelle Kwan wanted that gold and watching her tear up when she lost it was really sad.

    • Lisa Simpson

      Michelle is my favorite skater of all time, and that just broke my heart. I still think she should have won gold in Nagano over Lipinski. She seemed to be punished for being not quite as magical as she was in the US Championships.

    • Sarah

      I was able to watch all these videos and gasp, or laugh, but I couldn’t watch Michelle. It’s just too hard. I miss her.

      • Stef

        Me neither, I just can’t watch.

      • Kristin

        Ice skating isn’t the same without her!

  • hs in sf

    Maybe because it was in ice dancing, but the splatfest that was the Original Dance in Torino had 4 or 5 teams that fell. There were two very memorable ones: The Italian team (Barbara Fusar-Poli & Maurizio Margaglio) had one where they both fell – but it was her glare at him whhen they finished that everyone remembered. Then the Canadian team of Marie-France Dubreil & Patrice Lauzon were in a rotational lift when all of a sudden she went flying to the ice. He carried her off the ice, and they later had to withdraw from the free dance.

    I would also have to add Sasha Cohen falling on her first two triple jumps in the free skate in Torino. I think the first one was not that surprising but the second one definitely was (at least to me).

    • orville

      Oooh–I remember that death stare. I thought she might actually do something to him.

      Mandy Wotzel’s fall was the first I thought of when I read the title. Truly frightening.

      The one that still breaks my heart is Tai & Randy though. That was the first Olympics I can remember from when I was a kid and I was just crushed when they withdrew.

    • Sarah

      The Fusar-Poli Margaglio drama is CLASSIC. One of my favorite skating moments.

  • Marie Claire

    The Woetzel/Steuer fall was heartbreaking, but I’d also nominate the dance team of Bourne and Kraatz, who danced a wonderful program to Michael Jackson songs and were on the verge of winning the long-elusive gold, when at the very, very end, Victor Kraatz dropped Shae-Lynn Bourne from the final hold!

  • Katie

    Sasha Cohen in her LP at the 2006 Olympics- that was pretty sad since she was up after the short.

    • kristen

      sasha made me cry. she is the only one who could pull off such a beautiful disaster.

    • Amelia

      The Sasha Cohen fall was the first one I thought of…it didn’t seem surprising, because she has such a hard time skating a solid SP and LP, but my heart broke for her.

  • beth

    SO heart-breaking when Michelle Kwan lost that. Three Olympics and Sarah Hughes just jumped in there and swiped the Gold….it just didn’t seem fair. Oh gosh I remember that girl falling on her chin too!

    • jj

      UGH! My least favorite insult was Lapinski beating Michelle! She represented all I hate in women’s skating now – the soulless, joyless jumping and twirling. The Asian dancers are in a league of their own, but it is not art to me.
      == I remember a bear of a guy, not sure at what venue, and likely in the 70’s. He was skating backwards, with his partner held high over his head, sitting in his palm – and he hit a chink and fell. She landed right on his face! She must have fallen 8-9′.

  • Vilya

    How about Brian Boitano falling on his triple Axel in the short program, the year he reinstated as Olympic-eligible? He was favored to win, but that 1 fall killed his chances.

    • Sheila

      Yes! I was so disappointed for him…

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