Former Olympic hopeful keeps dream on ice

This Just In...

February 06, 2002|By DAN RODRICKS

I DID NOT bring the Winter Olympics up right away, figuring it's about as sore a point as you could raise with a young, funny, likable guy who planned on going to Salt Lake City until that day he fractured his skull and slipped into a coma.

Besides, the first 10 minutes I spent with Paul Binnebose - at Ice World in Harford County - he dropped about 100 one-liners on me and I could barely keep up with the self-deprecating wisecracks. In other words, I was having too much fun to mention the fall that ended his Olympic dreams.

Here's how Binnebose announced that our chat had to end because he was scheduled to give a figure-skating lesson: "Time for me to go wear tight pants."

In September 1999, Binnebose, then 21, and his partner, Laura Handy, were promising Olympic pairs skaters. They had finished second in the 1999 world junior championships and third at their first U.S. senior nationals. Making the Olympic team was a grand possibility. "Definitely," Binnebose says. "The way Laura and I were going, we would have made it. But, destiny being what it is, I fell on a different path."

One day during a routine practice at a rink in Delaware, Binnebose lifted Handy above his head with one hand. It's called a star lift. "It's one of the most difficult lifts," says Binnebose. "The woman has her hands on her hips and she's balanced there, and I have to hold and control. The woman is like a gigantic sail up there. There's wind resistance."

Binnebose had been having problems with his back muscles. When he hoisted the 103-pound Handy, his back went into a spasm. As he fell, he tried to break Handy's fall, and his head hit the ice hard. His skull cracked. He was in a coma for a month. He did not leave the hospital until December 1999.

"Don't tell my dad, but I was Rollerblading - just a little bit near my house - by that January," Binnebose says.

Two years later, he's coaching. (Handy recently finished sixth in the national pairs with another partner.) Binnebose gives private lessons several days a week at rinks in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He gets to Ice World at least once a week and meets his student, Alyssa Tomlinson, there. He skates. He demonstrates. He wears his U.S. national team jacket. "And tight pants," he says.

He also wears eyeglasses to help with a double-vision problem related to his fall. He also has some facial paralysis.

Any other lingering problems?

"You mean aside from the deep psychological ones?" Binnebose says. "I'm a psychopath. That's my only real handicap."

He's kidding, of course.

But he doesn't seem to be making a joke when he talks about rebuilding his fractured Olympic dream.

"Keith Zimmerman is - what? - 27 or 28 years old," says Binnebose, referring to one of the pairs skaters who made the U.S. Olympic team. "I got another four years before I'm that age. I'm not out of the loop, and I never quit. I never say, `Never.'"

Binnebose sometimes looks at videotapes of himself and Handy. "We were pretty good, you know?" he says. "We were world-class. I don't want to lose that. I don't want to think I've had my best years already."

He's determined to stay in shape. "Oh yeah, I have to," he says. "In case I get in trouble and the cops come after me - so I can outrun them."

A key to success

I feel good about a lot of things - the Patriots' victory in the Super Bowl, the recent $1.99-a-pound special on red bell peppers at the Giant, the city's new recycling schedule - but I feel damn-near splendid when a reader of this column embraces a small, locally owned retailer over a major chain, as per my advice.

A certain Mr. Howard writes:

"I needed four copies of a house key. Since I was near Route 40 and the Beltway, I stopped by Lowe's to get copies made Sunday morning. Unfortunately, the `home improvement warehouse' was out of the blanks needed to copy the key. I was disappointed, but remembered that there's a Home Depot just on the other side of the Beltway. So I drove over there, waited in line, and found out that Home Depot was out of the blanks, too. Now I was angry. The key didn't seem particularly strange or irregular, but these so-called hardware superstores couldn't deliver. I didn't want to wait a week to get the keys copied. So, on my way home, I decided to try my neighborhood hardware store in Rodgers Forge. I stopped in to Ayd Hardware, on York Road - near the bagel shop, the barbershop, the hobby shop and the bowling alley - and asked them to make four copies of the key, and it was no problem. From now on, the neighborhood store's my first stop."

Some performing gems

I have seen Brian Wendell Morton do some fine, stylish, close-up, card-trick magic. I have seen him perform in the presence of the Amazing Kreskin and turn the Amazing Kreskin green with envy. That was a few years ago. Morton has been fine-tuning his act since, and tomorrow evening at 8 he takes it into the Explorer's Lounge of the Harbor Court Hotel. ... I saw and heard Ruby Glover singing at a classy wedding over the weekend, and it was sweet business. She's the grand dame of Baltimore jazz singers and, at age 70-something, she can still warm a big room by Rubyizing an old song.

Dog tricks

Seen in Govans: A Jack Russell terrier, strutting solo along Woodbourne Avenue, clutching in his teeth - and by the handle holes - a bulging plastic shopping bag from Rite Aid. It's amazing, we thought, what people can train a dog to do - even make home delivery of his master's meds.

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