LANDOVER -- Brian Boitano sat nervously on a table in the hallway outside the locker room, trying to retain his focus on his program. It wasn't easy. The Zamboni ice-smoothing machine had broken down, and the four-time professional world champion was being asked to hold that thought a little longer.
"It bothered me quite a lot," said Boitano of the delay during technical competition for the DuraSoft World Professional Figure Skating Championships Saturday night. "You psych yourself up for a certain time. You know you have to go on in exactly 10 minutes, and then you don't go on and you have to let down and redo it all again."
If the delay and the imperfect ice (skaters complained it was too wet) bothered him, Boitano showed just how much of a professional he is by not allowing it to show in his skating. Boitano, who won the gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, was on his form from the moment he hit the ice and took off on a triple axel in combination with a double toe loop and was on his way to claiming his fifth consecutive championship.
It was a night for champions, new and old, as Kristi Yamaguchi skated a sultry routine to "My Lovin' (Never Gonna Get It)" by En Vogue and captured the women's title in her pro debut at the Capital Centre before 17,548 enthusiastic fans.
Yamaguchi, 21, wore tight red stretch pants and a glittering halter top as she performed what she described as a "daring . . . pretty sexy" program that earned five perfect 10s from the seven judges, despite a slip on the finishing slide.
It was a performance that evidently out-glitzed a hauntingly beautiful routine by Denise Biellmann in the opinion of the judges. Biellmann was perfect in her artistic performance to a song by Terence Trent D'Arby, and her scores ranged from 10 (three of them) to 9.7 for a total of 49.6. She finished second with an overall score of 99.1 to Yamaguchi's 99.9.
"I couldn't have skated much better," said Biellmann, who was celebrating her 31st birthday. "But I didn't expect to beat Kristi. She did many more technical jumps than me. But next week we are in Los Angeles, and I will try again."
This Saturday, all these pros will skate in something of a sequel called the World Challenge of Champions in Los Angeles.
In pairs, defending champions Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov skated a romantic, graceful and technically perfect artistic program to "Once Upon a Dream" from "Jekyll and Hyde" to score a perfect 50. Their total score, 99.5, beat Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov, who had 99.1.
In ice dancing, Natalia Annenko and Genrikh Sretenski scored 99.6, skating to "Unforgettable" by Natalie Cole and Nat "King" Cole, and it was like watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, as they swirled to a victory over defending champions Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin.
The expected showdown in the men's competition between Boitano and reigning Olympic gold medalist Viktor Petrenko did not develop. Petrenko skated first, fell twice in two spin attempts and bobbled yet another to land in last place going into the artistic program with a score of 48.2. After the artistic program, in vTC which he performed rousingly to "Rumba" by Gypsy King, he was still in last place.
"For me, I am new at this professional skating," Petrenko said later, still able to muster a smile. "It was kind of different out there, and I made so many mistakes."
Despite Petrenko's troubles, Boitano still was lucky to escape with this title. Paul Wylie and Brian Orser performed superbly. Wylie skated to "This is the Moment" from "Jekyll and Hyde" and demonstrated incredible straight-line footwork. He received a standing ovation and five perfect 10s, and finished second.
Orser was also very sound while skating to Johnny Mathis' "Orange Colored Sky" and included his second back flip of the evening and finished third, just one-tenth of a point behind Wylie.