The world-class figure skaters appearing in the Spokane Arena on Friday night will be skating for the gold. Not Olympic gold, the other kind.
From Tara Lipinski to Elvis Stoyko, these skaters are pros paid to tour. Some will become amateurs again in time to compete in the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Japan.
For now, the impressive lineup of figure skaters is on the road with the Campbell’s Soups Tour of World Figure Skating Champions, which stops in 59 cities. The skaters performed in Boise Wednesday; from Spokane they head for Portland and Seattle, and the tour ends in Los Angeles July 13.
Exhibition skating doesn’t offer the stress of competition, but back-to-back-to-back performances allow many opportunities to try out new moves and new routines. Not that these skaters need new material. Thus far, their talent has taken all of them to the medal platform in world-class competition.
For those attending Friday’s show, here’s a rundown of some of the skaters scheduled to appear:
At age 14, Tara Lipinski nailed down the top medal in the 1997 World Ladies Championship, stunning skating insiders and upsetting reigning World Ladies Champion Michelle Kwan, two years her senior. Lipinski made the leap from 15th in 1996 to the top spot this year. To win the championship, Lipinski hit seven triple jumps. She became the youngest woman to win the title. In fact, the International Skating Union raised the age limit for international championships to 15 this year, but Lipinski was grandfathered into the competition because she had competed the previous year, at age 13, in the world championships.
“I never expected it. Especially not this year,” Lipinski said after the competition in March in Switzerland. “It’s a big shock. But I love it.”
At the time she collected the medal, Lipinski was one month younger than Norway’s Sonja Henie when she won the first of her 10 world titles in 1927.
Figure skating fans haven’t heard the last from 16-year-old Michelle Kwan. She won the 1996 National and World championships and sees the Olympics in her future. In the last two years, Kwan has won nine championships. She started her career early; at 5 she took up figure skating after watching her brother play hockey and won her first competition at age 7. Her long-range goal: attend Harvard and become a lawyer.
Elvis Stojko won his third World Figure Skating men’s title in Switzerland in March, upstaging four-time U.S. champ Todd Eldredge by hitting a quad-triple combination jump. The Canadian skater is nicknamed “The King.”
Eldredge, the son of a commercial fisherman, also started skating at age 5. He won the U.S. National Novice, Junior and Senior championships and the World Junior Championship by the age of 18. When not on skates, he grabs his golf clubs and heads for the nearest course, where, by some reports, he also excels at the game of golf.
What skating fans don’t know the moving life story of young Russian skater Oksana Baiul? Orphaned as a young girl, training and living with coach Galina Zmievskaya after Viktor Petrenko urged his coach to mentor Baiul, winning the Olympic gold medal in 1994. Then came the lifestyle difficulties - a car wreck and an arrest for driving while under the influence. She appeared in a video, “Nutcracker on Ice,” has a series of books due out later this year and promotes her own line of skating clothing. And there’s widespread speculation about her abilities to reach again for skating’s top spot.
Petrenko will also skate Friday, a return appearance for him to Spokane. He, too, won Olympic gold, in 1992, after which he married, moved to Las Vegas and toured extensively. He finished fourth in the 1994 Olympics and now lives and trains in Simsbury, Conn., along with many of the top skaters in the world.
The consummate competitor, Brian Boitano won Olympic gold in 1988 and found unmatched success in commercial skating ventures. He was the first male figure skater to have his own TV special, “Canvas of Ice,” and his third TV special, which he produced and directed, will air later this year. He starred with Katarina Witt and Brian Orser in the European film “Carmen on Ice,” which earned him an Emmy after broadcast on HBO. When off the ice, he does commentary on ABC and PBS and writes for USA Today.
Others scheduled to appear here include: Nicole Bobek, Alexei Urmanov, Surya Bonaly, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Maia Usova and Alexander Zhulin, Lu Chen, and Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PREVIEW The Campbell’s Soups Tour Of World Figure Skating Champions will appear Friday at 8 p.m. at the Spokane Arena. Tickets are $45 and $30, available at G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets or call (800) 325-SEAT.