Gold in hand, Yamaguchi faces decisions on career

February 23, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

ALBERTVILLE, France -- So what's next for Kristi Yamaguchi?

Should she turn pro? Should she remain a competitive skater? Should she do both?

There are decisions to make for this new ice queen.

Friday night, in the tensest, fiercest competition of the Winter Olympics, Yamaguchi became the first American woman to win the ladies' figure skating gold medal since Dorothy Hamill in 1976.

Oh, she stumbled. But it doesn't really matter, now. She has the gold, a medal that may be worth millions.

"At this moment, I don't know what to expect," Yamaguchi said yesterday. "Everyone told me things will change so much. Right now, I want to enjoy the moment."

So yesterday, she enjoyed. She feasted on crepes in a downtown Albertville restaurant. She signed autographs. She spoke a little French to waitresses and children.

And then, she skated. Oh, how she skated. In an exhibition of champions, she wore a red, white and blue outfit and played the girl next door, doing triples and spins to "I'm A Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Soon, she may be cashing in, American style.

She has signed with a management firm, IMG of Cleveland. She soon will be booked for "The Arsenio Hall Show." Producers of "A Current Affair" have called.

And after next month's World Championships in Oakland, near her hometown of Fremont, Calif., the 20-year-old will go on tour with the Olympic Champions.

Forty-five cities, including a stop in Baltimore on April 11. And then on to Europe.

Tom Collins, the figure skating impresario who operates the tour, estimates an Olympic gold is worth $2 million the first year, $6 million over four.

He added that two factors will affect any champion's earning power: the recession and the two-year gap between Olympics.

Yamaguchi can turn pro and still return to the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. It's her choice, since the International Skating Union has loosened its amateur rules.

What will she do?

She says she doesn't know, yet. If she remains in competitive tTC skating, she surely will have to perform a triple Axel to remain ahead of the fast-rising stars developing in the United States and Europe.

But for now, she will settle back and savor the gold.

"I still think it's a little early to think what will happen in two years," she said. "Everything has happened so fast. I'll have to take everything slowly."

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