Todd Eldredge skated at the Olympics once and it wasn’t quite what he planned.
Scott Davis skated at the Olympics once and things didn’t go much better for him.
Tonight, Eldredge, a four-time U.S. champion, and Davis, the 1993-94 American titlist, go for their second Olympic berths. Should they get them - Eldredge is as sure a shot as there is in figure skating, while Davis needs to vault past Michael Weiss in the free skate - it would cap two of the most impressive comebacks in the sport’s history.
Eldredge won the short program Tuesday. If the 26-year-old stays ahead of a not particularly impressive field, he will surpass such stars as Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano in U.S. championships.
That would send him to the Nagano Games next month as one of the favorites. And it would ease the pain and frustration that nearly forced him to retire in 1994.
“The experiences of what I have gone through have been just huge for me,” he said. “Dealing with so many things in my life - I don’t know what there is they can throw at me now that I haven’t seen or had happen over my career.”
Eldredge won the 1990 and ‘91 American championships. In 1992, he withdrew from nationals with a back injury. He was placed on the U.S. team for the Albertville Games, but the back began bothering him again on the flight to France. Lacking confidence, he finished 10th.
In ‘94, he was stricken with the flu at the nationals and finished fourth.
He thought about quitting. Instead, he rededicated himself and has won two national titles and one world championship.
Davis also hit hard times after his consecutive U.S. titles, including an upset of Boitano in 1994. He hasn’t won a significant competition since those nationals, and usually has finished far back at major events.
Davis’ problems, he admits, have been more mental and emotional than physical. He had a nasty breakup with his coach, Kathy Casey, and it took him a while to get comfortable in his new surroundings at Simsbury, Conn., where he is trained by Galina Zmievskaya, who helped Oksana Baiul and Viktor Petrenko win Olympic gold for Ukraine.
In Wednesday’s competition, defending champions Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen and three-time former winners Jenni Meno and Todd Sand all skated superbly in the short program. Ina and Dungjen finished first with six of the nine judges. Meno and Sand got the other three top places to wind up second heading into Friday’s free skate, worth two-thirds of the total score.