In the new world of Olympic figure skating, Kristi Yamaguchi can still skate for cash and medals.
Just not all at once.
Yesterday, Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic women's gold medalist, announced that she will make her professional debut at the DuraSoft World Professional Figure Skating Championships at the Capital Centre in Landover on Dec. 12.
Five nights later, she will appear in the DuraSoft Challenge of Champions at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
And, then, she'll have to make the most important decision of her skating career: to remain a pro or regain her amateur status.
Yamaguchi has until February 1993 to apply for Olympic eligibility with the International Skating Union. If she is accepted, a virtual certainty, she then can resume training in earnest for the 1994 Winter Games.
"The door to the Olympics isn't closed completely," Yamaguchi said from Chicago. "I still have the option to go back in. I just have to decide."
Yamaguchi declined to commit herself to the pros or the Olympics. "I'm taking it one step at a time," she said.
As an amateur, Yamaguchi accomplished all her goals, winning the U.S. Olympic trials and then gaining the Olympic gold medal in Albertville, France.
Now, she'll skate against the likes of Katarina Witt and Rosalyn Sumners, on a pro circuit where style is often more important than counting triples.
"I'm expecting it to be quite different," Yamaguchi said. "I'm a little nervous, but very excited about the new challenge and the new goals I've set for myself. . . . I'll be skating with my idols, people I've looked up to for years."
But, just in case she decides to resume her Olympic career, Yamaguchi isn't paring down her practice schedule. She recently resumed training in Edmonton, Alberta, and will continue practicing while fulfilling commitments to her new corporate sponsors.
"I'm going to try and keep my level of skating up to that Olympic caliber," she said. "I'll definitely keep pushing myself to improve."