This Elvis gyrates too, in ice rink LILLEHAMMER, Norway

February 17, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

HAMAR, Norway -- There will be an Elvis sighting today at the Winter Olympics.

Elvis Stojko, an elfin skater who rides dirt bikes and practices the martial arts, is out for gold.

The greatest men's figure skating contest begins with today's technical program. There are two Olympic champions, a world champion and an American champion in the field.

And then, there is Stojko, the Canadian king who brings to the competition a powerhouse jumping combination -- the quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop.

It's three seconds and seven revolutions of leaping splendor.

"I once read where Michael Jordan said air time was just an illusion," Stojko said. "On the ice, what you're doing is trying to get as much air time as possible, to float in the air a long, long time."

Stojko's ability to leap and land the quad may be the skating trick that elevates him past Brian Boitano, Viktor Petrenko, Kurt Browning and Scott Davis, four of the big five of men's skating.

"You have the future, the present and the past all coming together," Stojko said. "Without a doubt, this is the best competition ever. We're all going to do our stuff. The guy who does the most stuff, and who stands, will win."

Stojko is the dark horse who could win. At the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, Elvis was the only performer to skate cleanly through the competition, but the judges sent him packing to TheHeartbreak Hotel and placed him fourth.

"I didn't want the judges to take away the feeling I had at the Olympics," he said. "No matter what scores I got, I skated the best I could and I did my job."

This time, he has added polish and a Canadian title to his resume, and the judges may have no alternative but to put him first -- if he skates superbly.

Not bad for a guy who once had feet so small his parents couldn't even buy him skates.

Elvis Stojko really was named after the king of rock 'n' roll. His father, Steve, an immigrant from Slovenia, sings with a choral group and runs a landscaping business. His Hungarian-born mother, Irene, is a homemaker.

"When they came to Canada in the 1950s, Elvis was big," he said.

But Elvis Stojko was small. It wasn't until he was 5 that his parents found skates to fit his tiny feet.

"I liked the spinning," he said.

He also liked the jumping. Now 5 feet 7, 151 pounds, Stojko is all speed and strength on the ice, a quick-footed performer who could outspin a top.

HTC But he's not just a one-dimensional skater. He has been riding dirt bikes since he was 7. His father introduced him to the martial arts when he was 14, and now, Stojko holds a black belt in karate.

His coach, Doug Leigh, calls him the toughest skater alive.

"He eats crystal," Leigh said.

At a recent practice, coach and skater watched as Petrenko bailed out of move after move.

Leigh shook his head and said, "My guy skates 'em out all the time. We're getting ready for Game 7."

Stojko said he will not be intimidated by the field. He was 15 when Boitano beat Canadian Brian Orser at the 1988 Olympics.

Now, he is skating against one of his idols.

"I always looked up to these guys," he said.

But come Saturday night, the world of skating may be ruled byStojko.

He will try to skate fast and clean. He vows not to hold back his signature quad leap in a long program with music from the movie, "The Dragon," the story of martial arts expert Bruce Lee.

"You can't play it safe," he said. "There is no excitement in that. I like to go all out. That's the challenge. That's why I like to push it to the limit."

Stojko said he will concentrate so hard he may not even hear the audience. A good thing, too. When he skates, crowds cheer.

Sometimes, they even shout his name.

The first time he heard his name called was at a junior world championship in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1991.

"I stepped on the ice," he said. "There was a hush before the music. And then, some guy yelled out, 'Elvis lives.' "

Saturday night, he may hear yet another shout:

"Elvis wins."

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