No icy calm for Eldredge
||April 19, 2002|
Todd Eldredge still gets nervous.
After 10 years chasing medals in vain at three different Olympic
games, after 20 years of training and exhibitions and winning
competitions all over the world, skating onto the ice to face a new
crowd still churns up the adrenaline in his lean, 30-year-old
But appearing in ``Target Stars on Ice,'' at the Sovereign Bank
Arena tonight is considerably less nerve-wracking than Eldredge's most
recent appearance at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
``It's a new audience every night, so you want to do your best,''
he says, speaking by telephone from Rochester, N.Y. just before going
out onto the ice. ``But this is definitely more fun because the
pressure is so different from at the Olympics, obviously. That
pressure is what the Olympics is all about. This is about entertaining
Eldredge is part of a stellar lineup of skating champions - some
Olympic medalists, others not. Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi,
Katarina Witt, Ilia Kulik, Kurt Browning, Anjelika Krilova and Oleg
Ovsiannikov, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, Danis Petrov, Steven Cousins
and Lucinda Ruh make up the cast of the arena show - two acts of
solos, duets and ensemble numbers to music ranging from The Carpenters
to U2 and L'il Kim.
Olympic champion Witt has rejoined the show after a four-year
absence. Two-time World Champions Krylova and Ovsiannikov are new this
year; three-time U.S. National Pair Champions Meno and Sand have been
in the show before. Also returning are Olympic silver medalist and
two-time World Professional Champion Petrov and eight-time British
National Champion Cousins. Two-time Swiss National Champion Ruh, known
as the ``Queen of Spin,'' is new this year.
Now in its 16th season, ``Target Stars on Ice'' appeared last year
at the Sovereign Bank Arena. Eldredge joined the current show just
after the Olympics in February, midway through the tour of 61
U.S. cities. He does two solos and appears in the finale.
``These are people I have known for a long time. A lot of them are
friends of mine,'' he says. ``So I felt at home right away. We hang
out, we have a good time.''
Born in the fishing town of Chatham on Cape Cod to a family of
commercial fishermen, Eldredge first took to the ice on hockey skates
he was given for Christmas. But once he saw the jumping and spinning
that was part of figure skating, he asked his parents to return the
hockey skates for figure skates.
Weeks later, as the legend goes, his mother would awake to find the
five-year-old standing next to her bed, waiting to go the rink before
By the time he was 10, Eldredge was living in Philadelphia, where
he received advanced training. Eight years later, he was the youngest
man to ever win the National Novice, Junior and Senior titles as well
as the World Junior Championships.
But the big one - an Olympic medal - has remained beyond Eldredge's
reach. Problems with the short program at the Salt Lake City games led
to similar difficulties with the long program. He finished ninth.
But Eldredge is philosophical about the less than glorious end of
his Olympic career.
``Obviously, I wish things would have gone a different way. But you
can't get everything you want,'' he says. ``It's the way it worked
out, and you have to move forward.''
He decided before the recent games that they would be his last.
``I knew I was going into my last Olympics,'' Eldredge says. ``It
was my third games. And being 30, it was getting harder and harder to
train. I thought I'd give it one last shot and do the best I could. I
wasn't expected to win. I was hoping for some kind of medal but it
didn't happen. I just wanted to go in and enjoy the experience.''
Nobody was landing quadruple jumps in the air when Eldredge started
competing years ago. But today, super-athletes on skates regularly
toss off four airborne revolutions. Is there too much emphasis on
those kinds of technical tricks, at the expense of artistry?
``A little,'' answers Eldredge. ``There is definitely a place for
that in our sport. That's normal. As long as you don't lose the
artistry. When you get wrapped up in jumps and who landed what, it's
just not as interesting. Skating is about more than that.''
What is unique about skating, Eldredge says, is its entertainment
value. ``You're not going to see an exhibition baseball game with
lights and music,'' he says. ``It brings sport and theater to the same
Eldredge can't imagine a time when skating isn't a part of his life
in some form. He has worked with children in the Special Olympics and
hopes to do more. He is taking part in a series of six seminars for
children, coming up after the tour.
``I'm sure I'll always be involved in one form or another,
hopefully,'' he says. ``Maybe I'll do some commentary down the road.''
One of his biggest off-ice interests is golf. A six-handicap
golfer, Eldredge is becoming a regular in celebrity golf tournaments
that raise funds for various community causes.
``Maybe I'll get into some celebrity championships at some point,''
Is he good?
``I'm not bad,'' he says, self-effacingly.
Target Stars on Ice comes to the Sovereign Bank Arena, 81 Hamilton
Ave., Trenton, today at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $32.50-$55.50. (609)