March 20, 1996 in Sports

Stojko The Clear Favorite At World Championships

Associated Press
 

Elvis is in the building, which means screaming girls in the audience, flowers on the ice and high marks on the scoreboard.

Or hundreds of fans in line for autographs, including a family that drove across Canada to get the Ice King’s signature at the World Figure Skating Championships.

How does Elvis Stojko, two-time world champion and national idol, handle all this?

“It’s hard, you have got to juggle a little bit,” Stojko said as he prepared for Wednesday’s short program. “We were kind of ready for the circus and all the hoopla here. We’ve got to take it step by step.

“Each day I have time limited; I get my time in getting away from it. If you get caught up in it, you’ll never get a chance to breathe and it’s really hard. But you find your time.”

Ever since the 1994 Olympics, it has been Elvis Time. Many thought he should have beaten Alexei Urmanov of Russia at the Lillehammer Games. But Urmanov’s artistry, however programmed, was favored by the judges over Stojko’s athleticism.

In the past two worlds, though, Elvis left the house with gold. He’s a strong favorite for No. 3 as seemingly all of Edmonton - if not all of Canada - has turned out to root for him.

On Sunday, Stojko drew a standing ovation from a huge crowd at his practice. Then the fans began throwing flowers onto the ice.

“I’ve never had a practice like that before,” he said. “You have to make sure you stay on track and stay focused, but it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.”

Stojko and the rest of the outstanding men’s field enjoyed their final days off Tuesday, when dance compulsories and the pairs short program were held.

Olympic champions Oksana Gritschuk and Evgeny Platov of Russia won the compulsory dance, worth 20 percent of the total score.

American champions Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow were seventh, while Renee Roca and Gorsha Sur were 14th.

In a peculiar occurrence, the first couple to skate in pairs, Mandy Wotzel and Ingo Steuer of Germany, won the short program, worth one-third the total score. Usually, the opening spot is disastrous, even for highly ranked couples, but the Germans were one of the only teams to skate cleanly.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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