Held at the Olympic Saddledome, the 1988 Olympic figure skating is significant for the final appearance of compulsory figures in the men’s and ladies’ events. Compulsory figures had been the original form of figure skating, with skaters tracing pretty figures on ice. Early in the 20th century, it contributed 60% to the skaters’ total score. But most skaters and coaches felt it had become too important and that some skaters, very skilled at figures but relatively weak free skaters, used it to build up insurmountable leads in the compulsories. Rules changes had been made almost every quadrennium to give lesser weight to the compulsories. But finally, the skaters and coaches convinced the officials and administrators to eliminate compulsory figures altogether, and they were last held in international competition at the 1991 World Championships. After Calgary they would be seen no more at the Olympic Winter Games.
The 1988 figure skating was anticipated for the Battle of the Brians – Brian Boitano and Brian Orser – in the men’s event, and the Battle of the Carmens in the ladies’ event. The two favorites among the women were Katarina Witt (GDR), the defending champion, and America’s Debi Thomas, the 1986 World Champion. Both would skate their free program to Carmen. As was now common, the Soviets were overwhelming favorites in pairs and ice dancing.