Host City: Lake Placid, United States
Venue(s): Olympic Field House International Ice Rink, Lake Placid
Date Started: February 16, 1980
Date Finished: February 18, 1980
Format: Each judge ranked each pair by Ordinal Placement from first through last place. The Ordinal Placement for each judge was based on Total Points awarded by that judge to the pairs. The points were based on 28.57% (2/7th) for the Original Program, and 71.43% (5/7th) for Free Skating. Final placement was determined by a Majority Placement rule. Thus, if a pair were ranked first by a majority of the judges, that pair was placed first overall, and the process was repeated for each place. Ties were broken by a Subsequent Majority rule, i.e., if the pairs were ranked for the same position by the same number of judges, Majority Placement for the next higher position for each pair determined who was ranked higher. The tiebreakers were then, in order, 1) Number of Majority Placements, 2) Total Ordinals of Majority, 3) Total Ordinals, 4) Total Points.
The greatest pair of the 1970s had been the husband-wife team of Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaytsev. Together they had won the World Title every year from 1973-78, and the Europeans in 1973-78 and 1980. In 1979, Rodnina took the year off to have a baby, and the World Championship was won that year by the American pair of Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. Babilonia/Gardner had been third at the Worlds in 1977-78 and became the first American pair to win the title since Karol and Peter Kennedy in 1950. The competition between the Soviet and American pairs was greatly anticipated, especially in Lake Placid at the height of the Cold War, but Rodnina and Zaitsev were still considered the favorites. Unfortunately the great dual did not occur. Before the Olympics, Randy Gardner injured himself in training. Just before the short program, he was given a lidocaine injection to his groin, hoping it would mask the pain enough for him to be able to skate. But during warm-ups, he fell several times, and it was not felt he could safely continue. Babilonia and Gardner withdrew without competing and Rodnina/Zaitsev were left with no real competition. They won the gold medal easily, winning both the short program and the free skate, and being ranked first by all nine judges. For Rodnina, it was her third consecutive gold medal, having won in 1972 with Aleksey Ulanov, making her only the second figure skater to win three consecutive gold medals, after Sonja Henie. Set to compete at the 1980 Worlds, she withdrew with a shoulder injury and thus retired after Lake Placid, having won three Olympic gold medals and 10 World Championships.