Brians Jest to Relieve Pressure

 

By Steve Woodward

USA TODAY

 

CALGARY - The scenario finds Brian Boitano challenging Brian Orser for the title of 1988 Olympic figure skating champion.

Or is it the other way around? Will it be Orser, the Canadian world champ, chasing the USA's Boitano for the gold in the men's long program Saturday?

"We don't look at placements," said Boitano, who was second to Orser in Thursday night's short program, worth 20% of the total score.

According to the computers, Boitano holds a narrow overall lead on Orser, who finished third in compulsories when Boitano was second. But Saturday's long program is a 50% proposition.

"We joke about how much pressure there is," Orser says of his chats with Boitano.

They rely on humor to keep the Battle of the Brians from getting nasty. Neither skater goes along with the way this tense Olympic showdown is being promoted.

"The way they've treated this thing it's been difficult on both of us" Boitano said.

"But we've been able to build a wall around ourselves. We can still talk about it without getting involved in the whole combat scene."

Boitano's short program is performed to "Les Patineurs" (The Skaters), a portrayal of a young boy who is "very arrogant, who shows his stuff (on skates). And he is very good."

The judges agreed with "very good," awarding seven scores of 5.8 for artistic merit along with a 5.9.

As for the arrogance, Boitano sheds that facade the instant he leaves the ice.

"But this was one of the proudest nights of my life," he says. "I was happy to get through it. It was a matter of survival for Orser, who earned seven Scores of 5.9 in the artisrty department, considered his strongest quality. Orser credited the execution of a difficult triple axel jump early in his program for "letting me relax a littl bit" and get on with the expressive elements of the routine.

He says he will try to stay relaxed during todays break and up until the skaters are called to the ice Saturday.

"Whoever skates the best said Saturday night will win," said Orser, stating the obvious. "So I don't think anyone has a particular edge going in." But, as was the case when Orser grabbed the world title from Boitano in 1987, the judges seemed to have established that Orser might have a slight artistic advantage. Boitano simply does an about appearances: "You have to have faith in the system. If you don't, it's just sour grapes."