Quad is nothing short of revolutionary With rivals turning to it, Eldredge mulls inclusion

March 19, 1997|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN STAFF

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The quad.

It's one jump and four revolutions, the all-or-nothing leap most likely to decide the men's title at this year's World Figure Skating Championships.

"You feel like you're up there for a long, long time," said Todd Eldredge, the four-time American champion who will begin defense of his world title during today's short program.

"You get up in the air," Eldredge said. "You go a little farther, and then you say, 'Wow, I landed it.' "

But here's the rub. Eldredge has never landed the jump in competition. And others have.

So, Eldredge is toying with the idea of performing the jump during Wednesday's long program final, worth two-thirds of the overall score. He's already hitting the jump 60 percent of the time during practices.

"I'd have to be totally committed to doing it, giving it an honest try," he said. "It's still kind of a strategy thing, depending on what place I'm in and how I am drawn in the long program. It would have to feel really good."

The quad is in the arsenal of Eldredge's top rivals. Russia's Alexei Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic gold medalist, and Ilia Kulik, runner-up at last year's worlds, unfurled the jump during the qualifying round. Canada's Elvis Stojko, a two-time world champ, can land a quad in combination with a triple jump. Some say Stojko is capable of five turns in the air.

And at last month's U.S. championships, Michael Weiss nearly became the first American to successfully land the quad in competition. The crowd certainly thought he did, roaring when he uncorked the jump. So did the judges who were rinkside. But when officials checked the videotape, they noticed Weiss barely touched down with two feet.

No quad. But plenty of excitement.

"I wasn't disappointed that it was taken away," Weiss said. "I skated well. Four rotations. Landed."

The story of the quad is the story of men's figure skating, which has shed artistry for pure power. The jump is called the quadruple toe loop. The skater plants down on the ice with his left toe pick, and lifts off. He spins four times and lands on the outside edge of the right skate.

"You just have to feel it," Eldredge said. "You don't have time to count. But you know when you landed it."

"You learn it by training," he said. "You go smack, smack. You get up. And finally, you land it."

Skating historians say that back in the early 1980s, Canada's Brian Orser was routinely completing the jump in practice. Jozef Sabovchik of Slovakia landed a quad in competition in 1984 and Canada's Kurt Browning hit a quad at the 1988 world championships.

Now, in rinks around the world, skaters young and old are refining the jump.

"There's no reason to stop progress," Weiss said. "Just let people go."

This year, the sport has benefited from the leapers, with the men trading titles during the pro tour circuit leading to the world championships. While the tour has boosted bank accounts, it has also taken a toll on the skaters' bodies. Eldredge has a sprained ankle. Others are nursing aches and pains.

"Everybody has a championship under their belt," Weiss said. "That makes it more exciting."

And with the stakes raised, the quad is threatening to become routine.

"After the 1998 Olympics, the quad will be a necessity," said Richard Callaghan, who coaches Eldredge.

"Eventually, you might see the quad in the short program," he said. "It's like the triple Axel. Ten years ago, two guys could do the jump. Then, it was 20. It will be the same with the quad."

For now, though, the quad remains skating's new frontier.

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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