Boitano relies on experience to be lst in technical program.

January 06, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

DETROIT -- This is how a professional takes a lead.

On a night when he appeared nervous, when he almost botched his first triple jump and had trouble connecting with an audience while performing a waltz, Brian Boitano showed skaters nearly 10 years his junior what it takes to compete under pressure.

Just grit and bear it.

Boitano warded off the shakes and won round one of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships by taking the lead in last night's technical program, worth 33.3 percent of the overall score.

Tonight, he'll go for his fifth American title, plus a berth in the 1994 Winter Olympics, in the free-skating final, worth 66.6 percent.

The real battle to watch now is for the second and final Olympic berth.

It figures to be a two-man duel between Scott Davis, sitting second, and Todd Eldredge, in third. Shep Clark, in fourth, also could make a run at gaining a spot in next month's Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

Mark Mitchell, who also was among the favorites heading into the competition, crashed and burned seconds into his program, falling on his first triple jump and winding up sixth.

Boitano also nearly took a tumble seconds into his program. But unlike Mitchell, he has the experience, plus the technical precision, to quickly turn potential disaster into just another jump.

By the time Boitano finished his performance, the crowd was roaring and the judges were firmly in his grasp, awarding him six marks of 5.9 out of 6.0 on artistic impression.

He was awarded first by five judges, with Davis earning three first-place scores, and Eldredge one.

Davis, the reigning American champion who skated to "Zorba the Greek," landed a triple axel-triple toe loop combination, and appeared sharp and confident. He should be.

"I think I can win," he said before the competition. "Brian has the experience. But I've got youth."

Eldredge also has experience. He has never looked better in competition, safely landing a triple axel-triple toe loop combination while performing splendidly to "The King and I."

Two years ago, laboring under a back injury, Eldredge was given a medical waiver to the Olympics. This year, he may just earn his way.

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