Yamaguchi, Ito meet but this time for show

NOW IT'S ICE AND EASY

December 10, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- It has been almost two years since Kristi Yamaguchi glided onto the ice and into the world of stardom by winning a gold medal in figure skating at the Albertville Olympics. It's a moment she says she will never forget and a feeling that cannot be duplicated.

That's why she has no desire to compete in the 1994 Games in February in Lillehammer, Norway, which will allow the return of professionals.

"Everything that happened in 1992 was great, but if I won a gold medal again, it wouldn't be as sweet as 1992. I can't top that," said Yamaguchi, 22. "The biggest difference, now, though, is the pressure. In the amateur ranks, you had four or five competitions a year, and one performance can make or break you.

"Now I have 70 to 80 performances a year, but if I have a bad night, it doesn't hurt as much. I often wondered what life after Albertville would be like, and it's been fun."

Fun is promoting "Stars on Ice," the show that will take her to 30 cities this winter. It's living in hotel rooms and out of suitcases. It's having bought a house in Reno, Nev., nearly a year ago, but never having a chance to live in it.

But this is the kind of life Yamaguchi says she has wanted since she was 6.

One of Yamaguchi's stops includes the 1993 DuraSoft Colors World Professional Figure Skating Championship tomorrow (7 p.m.) at USAir Arena.

It will be a rematch of the 1992 Games, as Yamaguchi meets Midori Ito of Japan for the first time since Yamaguchi won the gold and Ito the silver.

Yamaguchi says she's nervous, especially because she has had only about a week to work on her routine. That's a change from the countless hours she used to spend training in Edmonton, Alberta, as an amateur.

Now, she splits her time, working on Stars on Ice, which she headlines with 1992 men's Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie and 1984 men's Olympic champion Scott Hamilton, and modeling for the makers of acetate clothing and for DuraSoft Colors contact lenses.

"I'm aware of whom I'm competing against [Ito], but not to the point of where I become nervous and it hurts my performance," Yamaguchi said. "There's always some pressure on me, because I have to live up to my name."

Ito also downplayed the matchup.

"It's been two years since this country has seen me perform, and I just want to do my best," said Ito, 24.

Ito turned professional in April, ending an amateur career that started when she was 6. She was the first woman to do a triple axel in competition, and her speed and majestic jumps helped her win first place in the 1989 World Championships and second in the same competition a year later.

Ito also has a busy schedule, though not as hectic as Yamaguchi's. She performs about four times a month, and she makes her own schedule even though she is sponsored by Prince Hotel.

"When you are an amateur, all you think about is winning and losing," Ito said. "Now, there is no pressure, and I enjoy it. I have more free time."

Ito's favorite hobby?

"Sleeping," she says, smiling. "Now, I have time to sleep."

Yamaguchi likes to watch hockey. She's a San Jose Sharks fan. She likes to shop and also read a lot on planes and buses.

"This has become time-consuming," Yamaguchi said, "but I love skating more now than I ever did."

SKATING FACTS

What: 1993 DuraSoft Colors World Professional Figure Skating Championships

Where: USAir Arena, Landover

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

* Prize money (each competition):

First place, $40,000; second place, $20,000; third place, $12,000; fourth place, $8,000.

Women: Denise Biellmann, Midori Ito, Jill Trenary, Kristi Yamaguchi.

Men: Petr Barna, Robin Cousins, Brian Orser, Paul Wylie.

Pairs: Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov; Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini; Elena Valova and Oleg Vassiliev.

Dance: Natalia Annenko and Genrikh Sretenski; Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin; Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay; Marina Kilmova and Sergi Ponomarenko.

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