Skater Kristi Yamaguchi finds tour a respite from competition

April 30, 1991|By Eric Siegel

Going into the World Figure Skating Championships in Munich six weeks ago, Kristi Yamaguchi was just "hoping for a medal," any medal.

What the diminutive (4 feet 11, 82 pounds) dynamo came away with was the gold medal, her first major championship, leading the United States to the first-ever sweep of the medals in the women's event at the prestigious international competition.

"It's just starting to sink in," said Yamaguchi, who will appear at the Baltimore Arena Friday as part of the 1991 Tour of World Figure Skating Champions. Speaking last week by phone from her training base in Edmonton, Canada, she added, "It's weird. I'm starting to get more attention. Just thinking world champion is hard to believe."

It's little wonder the 19-year-old Californian has not had time to grasp the enormity of her achievement. Immediately after winning the championship, she and the other top skaters embarked on a 15-city tour of Europe. Then it was home for a whirlwind week of tending to personal business in Fresno before leaving for Edmonton, Canada, where her coach recently moved.

"I'm only skating a little bit -- about an hour and a half a day," Yamaguchi said, although she added she is doing off-ice weight training and flexibility exercises.

A good deal of the rest of the day is spent listening to music with her coach, trying to select a piece to work up a routine to for next year.

"We buy a lot of CDs, a lot of records," said Yamaguchi, who this year free-skated to a lilting version of "Samson and Delilah," using such techniques as a high double axel and a triple toe loop. "We haven't started narrowing it down yet."

At the Arena, she will skate to Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," which her sister recommended to her after seeing the movie of the same name.

"The tour is excellent experience for all the skaters," she said. "Being able to perform in front of a crowd night after night is great."

It is also a break from the pressure of competition. "It's a chance for the skaters to have fun on the ice and let themselves go," she said.

Among the skaters joining Yamaguchi at the Arena will be Nancy Kerrigan, who won the bronze medal in Munich. (Silver medalist Tonya Harding will join the tour later). Also on the bill are Peggy Fleming, Jill Trenary and Brian Orser, among others.

At the end of the tour in mid-June, Yamaguchi will return to Edmonton and begin training in earnest for next year.

"My ultimate goal," she said, "is to represent the United States at the 1992 Olympics."

Tour of World Figure Skating Champions

When: May 3, 8 p.m.

Where: Baltimore Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St.

Tickets: $40, $22 and $20.

Call: 481-6000.

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