Torvill and Dean tide us over until long-awaited Skategate debut

February 21, 1994|By Phil JacKman

The TV Repairman:

Take heart, you front-runners, you folks who show up only because "it's the place to be or the thing to do." Just two more nights until Tonya and Nancy stage Skate-a-Mania I in Lillehammer.

With more than a month's lead time and with the story still playing as the lead "news" story on planets all the way out to Jupiter, surprisingly, CBS isn't slipping in a two-hour pre-game show Wednesday evening.

Before waving bye-bye to John Madden, the net could have had the ace pro football commentator telestrating the moves of the skaters doing a short program, or at least named an All-Madden team among the male competitors. Is Elvis Stojko John's kinda guy or what?

The big noise today, as CBS hits us with more than 10 hours of coverage due to the Presidents' Day holiday, won't be Team USA's attempt to stay in the hockey tournament in its must-win-or-tie situation against Italy, but the finals of ice dancing.

This all came about last night when the incomparable Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean came roaring out of the past to remind us they are Olympic immortals.

The network started teasing of T&D's two-minute performance as early as 8:15 and, even though they weren't up until 9:42, the wait was almost worth it. They roared out of third place to the top spot, earning a few perfect 6.0 scores in the process.

How would you like to be the runner-up Russian teams trying to make up ground on a duo who just might be capable of still producing a "Bolero" out of their bag of goodies?

The U.S.-Italy game goes live at 2 p.m. While it's understandable that the announcers will stress the do-or-die aspects, chances are they'll be emphasizing the wrong reason.

It's almost imperative the team wins in order to avoid going through the tourney without posting a victory. While the United States has shown much spunk during its three ties and a loss, the fact is the effort smacks of the team's not being prepared properly. But that's a story television seems to be avoiding, going with the usual dodge of the team being "the youngest in the field." Have you heard that once or twice?

A victory means an appointment with Finland in the quarterfinals. The Finns are not only unbeaten, they don't even give up goals.

Another sure seller figures to be Bonnie Blair taking to the ice again, although 1,500 meters is a reach for her in speed skating.

Besides Torvill and Dean's trademark brilliance, the weekend was memorable if you don't consider hours of time-consuming watching to the thrills absorbed.

Blair's capturing her third straight 500-meter gold medal was a kick, even allowing for that tired scene of a bunch of people gathered in some hall back in Illinois producing mass hysteria on cue for the camera.

Picabo Street's grabbing a silver medal in the women's downhill and setting herself up for a shot at more hardware with a second-place finish in the combined, shot ahead greatly in interest following a feature on the young lady from Idaho.

"Peek," born of parents she describes as "hippies," didn't have a name for the first three years of her life, or until the parents applied for passports.

"They saw that, 'Girl baby,' on the application," said Street, "and they said, 'That's not going to do it; we need a name for this kid.' "

* One of the wisest things CBS did when it got into this Olympics business was point Verne Lundquist toward the figure skating.

ZTC Thrust into the position of being on for hours, this consummate pro wears easily on listeners, and he's miles above cheerleading.

The men's final appeared as if it would be a washout Thursday, when the top names in the sport -- Brian Boitano, Viktor Petrenko and Kurt Browning -- had horrible nights and stood 8, 9, 12 after the technical program.

But they all came back like gangbusters Saturday, forging up to the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 positions while passing the torch to the next generation.

* That Tomba fella who whips down a hill is not a bad dude, either.

After a recent slalom victory, Alberto donated his winnings, about $17,000, to a foundation named in honor of Ulrike Maier, which helps victims of skiing accidents. Maier, recall, was killed while competing in a downhill a month ago.

* A conservative estimate is that at least half of the setup pieces CBS has prepared for the Games have worked out to be almost as good as the events themselves.

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