Saturday, 15 July 2017

The 1989 Jeep Main Event Of Skating


Largely forgotten as it was held only once, the 1989 Jeep Main Event Of Skating (also billed as the North American Men's Professional Championships) was a made-for-TV professional figure skating competition held at the Montreal Forum on April 7, 1989. Offering a total purse of sixty five thousand dollars in prize money to the four men who competed (Brian Orser, Scott Hamilton, Toller Cranston and Gary Beacom) the event nearly sold out and marked two important firsts in figure skating history. It was Brian Orser's first professional competition in Canada as well as Katarina Witt's North American debut at a professional competition.


Katarina Witt agreed to skate a series of exhibitions at the Montreal event under the provision that Brian Orser skated an exhibition in East Germany the following month. When a reporter from "La Presse" interviewed her prior to the competition and asked about her "revealing" costumes at the Calgary Olympics, she responded, "I was shocked that the media had described me as a sex symbol. I never wanted to charm the judges with my costumes. I am a beautiful girl, thanks to my parents, but it stops there. When I interpreted 'Carmen', I had to wear a costume that suited my character. It was not to influence the judgement of the officials."


The Jeep Main Event Of Skating was televised on CBC on April 15 and 22, 1989, with Toller Cranston playing double duty as competitor and commentator. The inimitable Cranston even commentated his own performances. The four men who competed each skated a technical and artistic program, with Orser ultimately winning a professional competition for the first time in his home country. He'd only participated in two previously - the 1988 Challenge Of Champions and World Professional Championships in Landover - and had both times failed to reach the top "of the podium". Quebec skater Jaimee Eggleton made his professional debut in the exhibition gala that followed the event. Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall, Lea-Ann Miller and Bill Fauver and Rosalynn Sumners also joined Witt and Eggleton in the exhibition gala.

Though The Jeep Main Event Of Skating wasn't one of the professional competitions that ultimately survived, its success was proof that Canadian audiences were willing to come out in droves to take in the excitement of a professional figure skating competition.

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