Judges spill Marval's hopes

January 09, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

DETROIT -- It was a tough week for Rocky Marval, the skating truck driver.

He was verbally blasted by his ex-partner, Calla Urbanski. He was trying to patch together a new partnership with Natasha Kuchiki. And he was angling for one last shot at the Winter Olympics.

And yesterday, just when it appeared Marval and Kuchiki were about to finish third in pairs at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, another pothole appeared.

The judges.

In what had to be a skating first, Karen Courtland and Todd Reynolds fell three times, including once simultaneously, and were awarded third place and the final Olympic berth ahead of Kuchiki and Marval.

"We skated our hearts out," Marval said. "What can I say?"

The judges could have mailed in these results.

As expected, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, fifth in the world last year, won their first national title.

Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen finished second.

Courtland and Reynolds got one of those lifetime achievement awards the sport's movers and shakers periodically hand out and finished third.

And Marval was out.

But he wasn't about to make a fuss. After all, he still has a career to nurture, and ultimately, his fate lies in the hands of judges.

Asked how he could explain skating cleanly and failing to make the Olympics, he said: "I'm afraid I can't answer that question. I'm just out there."

Pairs skating usually is filled with murky twists and unusual plot lines.

4 The past two years it has been: switch partners.

"It happens all the time," Meno said.

Sand dropped Kuchiki for Meno.

Marval split with Urbanski for Kuchiki.

And Urbanski sent a fax to Italy to find Joseph Mero. She would have been better off retiring. Yesterday, Urbanski failed to land a single jump and the team placed seventh overall.

Urbanski and Marval weren't the only pairs skaters to have a tough time in Detroit.

Sand took an elbow in the eye in practice. Then, he was forced to skate with a black eye that didn't quite match his blue outfit. "Well, you know, Detroit, it's a rough city," Sand said. "But you should have seen the other guy."

The other guy was actually Meno, Sand's partner on and off the ice. The black eye was an accident. Really. It was a throw-twist maneuver that ended with Meno's elbow smashing into Sand's eye. "My vision was always fine," Sand said. "I couldn't always see down. But I shouldn't be looking down on the ice, anyway."

Graceful and elegant, Meno and Sand skated relatively cleanly through an all-Stravinsky program. They were clearly the class of a very ordinary field.

Ina and Dungjen could be the rising stars of American pairs. Kyoko Ina is 21, was born in Japan, raised in New York, skated briefly as a Japanese singles skater, moved back to America, skated singles, and then, finally, shifted to pairs.

Jason Dungjen is 26 and has skated pairs for a decade, mostly with his sister Susan.

"We're working together well, now," Dungjen said. "We think we can improve."

Before yesterday's disastrous performance, Courtland and Reynolds were counted on to add a -- of depth and brilliance to the American teams going to Lillehammer, Norway.

But they were unsteady nearly from the beginning. And when Reynolds' caught Courtland's blade, both went down in a heap.

Reynolds finished the program with a coating of slush on his pants.

"That never happened to us before," he said.

But was he embarrassed to finish third and take the last Olympic berth?

"Nope," he said. "We deserved it. We've had a good season and a good week of practice."

And now it's on to Norway.

But don't look for any Americans within sight of the Olympic podium.

Back to skate are the last two sets of Olympic champions from the old Soviet Union, Natalia Mishkuteniok and Artur Dmitriev, and Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. Also in Norway will be the reigning world champs, Canadians Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler.

"I don't know how well we can do," Sand said. "But I think we can skate with the best of them."

Senior pairs Free skate

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