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Pros: Stars on Ice Not Olympians, They Just Perform Like Them

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune
Date: January 9, 1998
Author: Linda K. Handy

Copyright 1998 The Salt Lake Tribune

WEST VALLEY CITY -- They are no longer Olympians, but the figure skaters in the Discover Card Stars on Ice are not has-beens, either.

"We're talking about Olympic-caliber figure skating in this production," said Sandra Bezic, who directed Thursday's show at the E Center. "It's an extremely difficult show and a brutal schedule."

Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, Katarina Witt, Ekaterina Gordeeva, Paul Wylie, Kurt Browning and others are performing 60 shows, with this kind of itinerary: a 7:30 p.m. show, a charter flight to the next city, a 3 p.m. rehearsal and another show.

They are as busy as the skaters preparing for the Nagano Olympics. That's appropriate, because the gap between amateur and professional figure skating is closing. Actually, says Bezic, skating in Stars on Ice is "much harder than preparing for the Olympics. When you're training for the Games, you're shielded from everything and have ideal circumstances -- everyone does everything for you. From the Olympics to the professional world, you grow up overnight."

In the old days, all skating shows were of the Ice Capades variety, with props and lavish head ornaments. Stars on Ice pioneered the showcasing of skaters' athletic ability and style.

Every skater Thursday did successful "triples" with Browning pulling off a triple axel and a triple toe loop, triple toe loop combination. Yamaguchi chose two of the most difficult jumps, a triple lutz and a triple loop.

The one advantage the professionals have is the liberty to laugh at themselves.

These skaters take themselves seriously enough, though, to uphold a high athletic standard. Amateurs who want a skating career after the Olympics have to maintain their technical talent in a production like this.

"Our show is about maintaining the technical edge of figure skating and taking the responsibility to continue growing in the sport," Bezic said.

Gordeeva's style is evolving within the professional ranks. Following the death of her husband, Sergei Grinkov, she is making due without her partner.

Gordeeva's solo to "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" and Hamilton's "Wizard of Oz" number brought a sellout crowd to its feet -- without one triple jump. After all, it isn't a triple axel that makes children want to start skating.