Competition figures to be intense behind Boitano

By Steve Woodward

USA TODAY

 

DENVER - A successful amateur figure skater must be patient and realistic. The sports pecking order demands both.

At this week's US. Figure Skating Championships, Brian Boitano Is the man of the hour among men's singles competitors. Those who would challenge the three-time defending U.S. champion realize the hour hand moves slowly. Sometimes, its enough to make a guy think irrational thoughts.

Christopher Bowman, for example, briefly considered self-combustion.

"Before last year's world could have gone out on the ice with my hair on Am and, even then, nobody would have noticed me," said Bowman, the defending, men's silver medalist "Its very difficult for someone like me to say, 'Hey, c'mon, give me some attention."

Although Boitano vs. Canada s Brian Orser was the main event at the world

Bowman finished seventh with a strong long program and quickly improved his reputation.

Seventh in the world was comforting last March, but it won't cut it this week. Boitano will ,be the heavy favorite for the U.S. gold when men's competition starts today with compulsory figures. But the two spots behind him will be hotly contested by a group of skaters using 1988 as a springboard into the post-Boitano era

Along with Bowman, there is Scott Williams, 21, '87 US. bronze medalist Denver's Dan Doran, 21; Paul Wylie, 23, a Harvard sophomore; and Angelo D'Agostino, 24, silver medalist at the recent Grand Prix Internationale de Paris.

Based on previous results and their total scores after Friday's long program, two will be selected to join Boitano on the 1988 Olympic team Making it to Calgary, Alberta, for the Winter Olympics next month Is important Bowman says "because anything Is possible, anything can happen," In the hunt for a medal.

And though Bowman and Williams finished two-three at nationals a year ago, the pecking order after Boitano Is thought to be subject to reshuffling.

"I'd rather be In that group than out of it," says Wylie of the crowd in the second division. I can wait until '92, but my goal is to make the Olympic team this time."

Bowman, bothered by a tender left ankle, and Wylie finished first and second last fall at the NHK Trophy in Japan. But those achievements go virtually unnoticed back home because Boitano , is an Olympic gold medal contender and has a heralded jump in his repertoire, the quadruple toe loop.

"That's what I went through in 1984," Boitano says. " It's very discouraging because, usually, when you skate your best, you expect to win."

Bowman, a former child actor, is eager for a starring role on skates but says he Is content to let the script unfold naturally.

"Everything has its time and place," says Bowman, whose routine features a right-knee slide. "I'm in no way ashamed or discouraged to be second to Brian. I think hes the greatest skater in the world right now. He's a great (US.) champion. The time will come when I'll be prepared to skate and handle myself as well as he has."