Boitano, Yamaguchi hit the ice U.S. gold medalists competing as pros

December 11, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- Four-time world professional figure skatin champion Brian Boitano wanted to put figure skating on the same plane as other sports. He wanted professional skaters, like professional basketball players, to be able to compete for an Olympic gold medal.

He campaigned actively for it. But when the International Skating Union Congress passed a rule last summer that will allow that to happen, Boitano wasn't quite ready for what happened next.

The rule became known as the "Boitano Rule," and he has been thrust into the position of being its champion.

"It's not what I lobbied for," he said yesterday after a practice for tomorrow's DuraSoft Colors World Professional Figure Skating Championships.

"I lobbied to let pros back in the Olympics. What they've done is to say they'll forgive your past indiscretions and allow you to regain amateur status."

Boitano said he will submit his proposal for reinstatement on April 1 to become an amateur again so he can compete in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

It is a decision facing a number of skaters during the coming months. One of them, Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, will make her professional debut tomorrow.

"I don't know what I'm going to do yet," she said yesterday before leaving for an appearance at the White House, where she was to present President Bush with the official Christmas Seal of the Lung Association. "I know going into Albertville [this year], I was able to keep from feeling all the pressure. It would be different this time. There is more expected of me now. It's totally different now.

"I just don't know. If I'm still mentally able to come prepared and my technical skills are still there, then, who knows, I might try it. On the other hand, if I'm really enjoying my professional career, maybe I'll stick with that."

Yamaguchi, 21, says for professional skaters to have the choice to make this one-time decision is "wonderful, because you want to see the best skaters at the Olympics, and it will allow the best skaters back into the amateur ranks. . . . It is kind of weird to be stuck in the middle of a time when so many changes are going on in figure skating. But I'm very lucky to have those options

open."

Boitano was asked if he would recommend that Yamaguchi apply to regain her amateur status next year.

"If I was her, I'd go on and do my pro stuff and enjoy it," he said. "She do that for the next five years and then apply for the Olympics. Then she could this like I'm doing it now.

That's what I'd do."

In fact, that is what he has done, picking up four world professional titles and four professional World Cup titles along the way.

His decision to return to the amateur ranks next year will eliminate him from this competition in the future. Tomorrow, he will perform the basic routine he plans to use in the Olympics.

"I'm stressed about it," he said. "It's not that I care what the judges say, it's what I say about what I do. I'm not too easy on myself. I'm only competitive with myself. You know, I love the process of what I do. I love the skating. But I hate the event. I hate becoming a nervous and twisted person like I do leading up to events."

But Boitano will enjoy every moment of this event. He will be competing against 1992 Olympic gold medalist Viktor Petrenko, 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie and his longtime rival, 1984 and 1988 Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

In April, he will be an amateur again and shouldering the responsibility for making the switch possible.

"A lot of people think I wanted this for myself, but it's not about me. It was about the betterment of all skating. It was about allowing the best skaters to skate in the Olympics."

Facts and figures

Event: DuraSoft Colors World Professional Figure Skating Championships

Site: Capital Centre

When: Tomorrow

Time: 7 p.m.

Tickets: 500 available

Outlook: Brian Boitano will defend his three consecutive titles and test his future Olympic prospects against Viktor Petrenko, Paul Wylie and Brian Orser. On the women's side, Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi will make her professional debut against the likes of Jill Trenary, the world champion and three-time U.S. national champion. It will be their first meeting since Trenary defeated Yamaguchi for the U.S. National Championship in 1990.

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