Coming to the rescue of U.S. figure skating: Brian Boitano.
Yesterday, the 1988 Olympic men's skating gold medalist announced that he was applying for his international reinstatement in a bid to compete at the 1994 Winter Games of Lillehammer, Norway.
Although Boitano's announcement was expected, it was a necessary first step on the road to Norway. The International Skating Union, the sport's governing body, is expected to reinstate Boitano this summer.
"It's no secret that I have already had this in my mind," Boitano said. "It's not a surprise or a revelation. It has been a slow decision-making process. It has taken time for me to discover how this would affect my life, how it would affect my body."
The news of Boitano's comeback to world competition could not have come at a better time for American skating. Just last week, 1992 Olympic women's champion Kristi Yamaguchi announced that she would not return to competitive skating.
At the 1993 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, the United States won no medals for the first time since 1962 and 1964, emerging with only eight slots for the 1994 Winter Games.
"The performance of the U.S. team had no bearing on my decision," Boitano said. "I already had my mind made up before the worlds."
L But Boitano gives the United States a solid gold-medal hope.
His chief threat: four-time world champion Kurt Browning of Canada. Viktor Petrenko, the 1992 Olympic champion, may also stage a comeback.
"I won't know about the pressure for another few months,"
Boitano said. "I don't feel the same pressure that I felt in 1988. This will never be 1988 for me. I had fulfilled a lot of things for my career in 1988. Priorities change, and that's not exactly why I'm going into the Olympics this time. I don't feel the same pressure that I did. I don't look at myself as a favorite. I just look at the %% work I have to do."
For Boitano, 29, his priority now is not winning, but skating well.
"I'd love to go out and give a real solid performance," he said. "That's something I go out and take pride in. It's great to be able to work and put in your time and come off with the performance you want to.
"I'm not looking to top what I did in Calgary," he added. "You have to go on with your life."
Three other skating gold medalists from the 1988 Calgary Games also are launching comebacks for 1994.
Katarina Witt of Germany will attempt to compete with a younger generation of stars in women's singles.
Russians Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov will skate in pairs, emerging as the chief threats to their fellow countrymen and 1992 Olympic champions Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev.
"I don't want to be the only professional skater coming back," Boitano said.
Boitano is a four-time U.S. champion, two-time world champion and two-time Olympian. Once regarded as a technical robot on the ice, Boitano blended the artistic and the athletic in one memorable performance, defeating Canadian Brian Orser for the gold medal.
"It would probably be more lucrative for me to stay and be a professional," Boitano said. "But I have never focused on making money. I have focused on doing what I do best, and that is skating. I want to challenge myself more and come full circle."
And by coming full circle, Boitano will be able to close out his career on his terms.
"Before I turn 40, before I let it slip through my hands, I want to compete again," he said.