Three world champs in men's field

by Steve Woodward

USA Today


CALGARY- During the last month, figure skating's mighty have fallen at a surprising rate.

In major events intending to serve as tune-ups for the Winter Olympics, the USA's Brian Boitano, Canada's Brian Orser and the Soviet Union's Alexandr Fadeev discovered they were vulnerable to pre-Olympic pressurre.

But the situation developing in Calgary is atypical. For the first time in Olympic hisory, men's figure skating, which begins Feb. 17, features three world champions previously denied an Olympic gold medal.

In January, Fadeev, world champ in 1985, became European champ; 1986 world champBoitano won his fourth U.S. title; and Orser, reigning world titlest, successfully defended his Canadian title for the seventh time.

"I wouldn't be happy with this performance at the Olympics," Boitano said after the U.S. championships in Denver.

If all three click, men's skating might be remenbered as one of the most competitive Olympic matchups in years.

The ladies scenario lacks similar complexity, but not drama. Katarina Witt, 1984 Olympic champion and three timeworld champion, (1984-85, 1987), will attempt to overcome the challenge fo the USA's Debi Thomas, who won the world title in 1986.

If Thomas falters, 1987 U.S. champion Jill trenary might have the mettle for a Witt overthrow. Or perhaps the the burden will fall on the USA's Caryn Kadavy, bronze medalist at last year's World Championships. Canadian champion Elizabeth Manleyalso poses a threat.

"It couls be any one of five," says Carlo Fassi, former coach of Olympic champions Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill, now mentor of Kadavy and Trenary. "It really depends on how (the compulsories) come out, but then the short program also could be a killer."

Though he will skate relatively close to home, Orser, 26, of Penetanguishene, Ontario, considers himself an underdog.

"All three of us are fighting for an Olympic title," he said. "So far, none of us has it."

Boitano has apparently been released from the clutches of the quadruple toe loop jump. His coach, Linda Leaver, siad it will be eliminated from the Calgary program.

Fadeev executed a flawed quad at the European Chanpionships, be he "probably feels like he has nothing to lose," Orser says. "So he night try it."

If the Witt-Thomas showdown materializes in the ladies' finale Feb. 27, spectators will recieve a double dose of Carmen,the opera score selected by both skaters.

"I heard last summer that Debi also is doing her rouine to music from Carmen," Witt said. "We will let the judges decide who is the best."

Said Thomas: "our programs aren't similar, anyway. They're not even close to the same kind of interpretation."

It was not clear, however, if Thomas was referring to interpretation when she added her final thoughts on the subject.

"(Witt) dies at the end," she said. "I don't."